TV-PGApril 20, 2004: Apple intro'd new PowerBooks and iBooks-- while we were busy celebrating Patriot's Day. Meanwhile, the AirPort Base Station learns a couple of neat new tricks, and a Microsoft director of Windows Evangelism decides to make his Sony VAIO look as much like a Mac as possible...
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From the writer/creator of AtAT, a Pandemic Dad Joke taken WAYYYYYY too far

But Wait; It Was A Holiday! (4/20/04)

What do you mean, "where were we yesterday?" We told you, it was Patriot's Day. No, seriously-- cross our hearts and hope to die, Patriot's Day is an honest-to-goodness holiday 'round these parts; maybe it's because it commemorates the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and Lexington just happens to be right across the street from us. Whatever. All we know is, it's a real holiday with real days off, and there's no trash pickup or anything. It's traditionally celebrated by running a marathon. (Well, unless you're us, in which case it's celebrated by walking back home from Trader Joe's-- but it's all uphill, and we went the steep way.)

So imagine our surprise when the reports turned out to be true: as faithful viewer mrmgraphics was first to point out, Apple really and truly did introduce new PowerBooks and iBooks yesterday, despite the fact that dozens of its customers would be too preoccupied with running twenty-six miles in unseasonal heat (or shlepping a bag of hamburger buns and a carton of chocolate soy milk back home from an alternative grocery store) to pay much attention. Go figure. What were those PR people thinking? Seriously, what's next-- dual 3.0 GHz G5s unveiled on Take Your Dog To Work Day? The mind reels.

But hey, they're here, and Patriot's Day is now just another memory, so we suppose we should recap these PowerBook changes. First and foremost: no, they aren't G5s this time around. (Apple wants to hold the announcement on those until Christmas Day.) As expected, these were just minor speed bumps intended to freshen up a product line that may have been looking a little stale lately. Accordingly, Apple's press release says that the 12-inch PowerBooks now run at a zippy 1.33 GHz, the mammoth 17-incher runs at 1.5 GHz, and the 15-inchers run at either or, depending on how much you're willing to spend. The SuperDrives are now 4x, all PowerBooks now come with Bluetooth and AirPort Extreme built-in, and the new graphics subsystem is a Radeon 9700 (or a GeForce FX Go5200 for the 12-inch models). Oh, and at the high end of the spectrum, it looks like prices dropped by Bennie or two. Sadly, the 12-inchers still don't have the funky backlit keyboard, but at least they now have 60 GB hard drives instead of 40 GB ones.

And let's not forget the iBook: a second press release notes that iBooks now come in 1.0 and 1.2 GHz flavors (meaning that Apple's entire Mac line-up is now 1 GHz or faster, so we can finally wave bye-bye to the whole "MHz" measure) and SuperDrives are finally a build-to-order option-- but only on the 14-inch model. Otherwise, though, nothing appears to have changed; RAM, hard drive, and graphics are the same as they were in October; you can apparently now add twice as much RAM as before, but the 'Books ship with the same ol' 256 MB. Prices are right where Apple left 'em, too. But then again, that's not terribly surprising, given how well iBooks sold last quarter; Apple probably figured that it shouldn't mess with a good thing (other than cranking up its clock speed a few hundred more cycles per second).

Then again, faithful viewer Kevin Hughes noticed that, as of broadcast time, the Apple Store made reference to the iBook's "brilliant CRT," so maybe there are some significant changes to those puppies after all. True, you only get thirty seconds of battery life, but at least you build upper body strength lugging it from place to place.

And that's that. New product intros on Patriot's Day; will wonders never cease? We guess that Apple just isn't hep to all our goofy little holidays out here in New England. That's okay, though; besides, if you think Patriot's Day is an odd one, consider that our city workers get Evacuation Day off, too. And we swear, the fact that it happens to share the same date with St. Patrick's Day is a total coincidence.

Oh, and if you're wondering, Evacuation Day is traditionally celebrated by getting falling-down drunk on green beer. Now excuse us, but we have to go ice our grocery hands before the tendons swell.

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No, Honestly, We're Serious (4/20/04)

Okay, so it's NAB week, and since Apple's all about the electronic media and broadcasting market, we know we're supposed to be all tingly about any new NAB-launched Apple products right now-- products like Motion, which faithful viewer Elliot Jordan brought to our attention a couple of days ago. Slotting into Apple's Pro Digital Production line-up alongside Final Cut Pro HD, DVD Studio Pro, Shake, and Logic, Motion promises "motion graphics design" with "real-time previews, procedural behavior animation and Final Cut Pro HD integration." All that for just $299 when the product ships this summer. Sounds like a hoot and a half, right?

Except that we're far too excited about the new AirPort Base Station to care much.

It's a Big Picture sort of thing. Sure, Motion will let video people put together those nifty swirling graphics with the fancy animated titles that get prepended to any news updates on the ongoing story of the week ("Crisis in the Gulf," "Baby Down the Well," "Janet's NippleGate Day 4," etc.), but the new Base Station includes a feature that's just way too cool for the complete and utter non-intro that Apple's seen fit to give it. No Stevenote, no press release, no nothing; just a third part number and the ability to pull power over Ethernet, baby! Yes, according to faithful viewer Frozen Tundra, you can actually plug one of these suckers right into a powered Ethernet switch (specifically, one that can power an IEEE 802.3af PD, Class 0 device-- but you knew that, right?) and it'll run just fine without being plugged into a wall socket. Oh, sure, you can't use the USB port if you run it that way, but that's a small price to pay for the sheer coolness of Power over Ethernet.

Now, we know you probably think we're being facetious-- to be honest, even we can't tell anymore-- but honestly, we're pretty sure that for some reason we find this very, very neat. And if Power over Ethernet still doesn't sound like much to you, well, first check your pulse to make sure you're still alive, and then keep checking it to make sure you haven't keeled over dead from sheer excitement after hearing that the new Base Station also conforms to UL 2043! Woooooo-hoo! Yeah! And if you're wondering what that is, a MacCentral article confirms that it's a fire rating that allows the new Base Station to be installed in "'air-handling spaces,' such as the area above a suspended ceiling in a classroom or office." Apparently if you've already got a few older Base Stations tucked away up there, you're breaking some heinous kind of law, but now you can put it all right for just $249 a pop, or $229 to education buyers, who also qualify for a $999 five-pack.

So again, not to dis Motion or anything, because it really does look pretty nifty, but c'mon-- Power over Ethernet for an AirPort Base Station you can legally stick in a ceiling? What could possibly compete with that?

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Pigs Look Great In Lipstick (4/20/04)

Quick question for you all: does anyone else think it's a little creepy that there are Microsoft employees making their Wintels look like they're running Mac OS X? Yeah? Okay, so it's not just us. Good. Here's another question: do you also think it's a little bit funny? As in, "ha ha" funny, but maybe also a little funny-peculiar? Yes? Great! Okay, one last question: do you perhaps also find it just a teensy bit... arousing?

No? Oh. No, us neither. That would be, um, sick or something. Yeah.

For the six of you wondering what the heck we're talking about, we thank you for your uninformedness, which allows us to deftly change the subject by directing you to a Wired article that was forwarded to us by faithful viewer LissaAnn. Basically, some guy at Microsoft-- not the Mac Business Unit, which is obviously filled with Mac-using people, but Microsoft Proper in the heart of Windows country down Redmond way-- got bored during an eight-hour conference call. And we have to interject just for a second, here, and say: An eight-hour conference call?! What were they doing, waiting for Windows to finish installing?

Eight-hour conference call. Sheesh, even their meetings are bloatware.

But we digress. Anyway, yes, he got bored during an eight-hour conference call, and despite the fact that he's a "director of Windows platform evangelism," he decided to download and install a "variety of interface tweaks" that replicated Mac OS X's Dock, changed XP's icons, etc. so that his Sony VAIO reportedly now kindasorta looks like its running Mac OS X. Says he, "many of us used Macs since we were kids and never stopped, even if Windows paid the bills." Of course, if this is his idea of "Windows platform evangelism," the odds are pretty good that Windows won't be paying his bills for much longer. But hey, at least the guy has taste.

Now, none of this is to say that there aren't Mac users who, for one reason or another (say, mental illness or a bad drug trip), may have altered the Mac OS appearance to look more like Windows. But we're going to go waaaaay out on a limb, here, and assume that few, if any, of them are working for Apple. Meanwhile, Wired reports that there are apparently a ton of Mac fans riddled throughout Microsoft's ranks; while that fact might perhaps explain why Microsoft products often seem to include an unseemly level of "homage" to existing Apple products, it does indeed make us wonder why Microsoft isn't better at copying Apple's ease of use.

But back to probably-soon-to-be-ex-"director of Windows evangelism": apparently he told Wired that "his Mac OS transformation was testament to the adaptability of Windows XP." Says he, "it shows the flexibility of Windows and the ecosystem of skinning artists that we have. How is that for spin?" Well, even though he was kidding, we're going to have to say... "unconvincing." So we hope he's polishing up that ol' résumé. Whatever happens, he's clearly a sharp guy who knows what's good, so maybe Apple's hiring. If nothing else, maybe they have shorter conference calls.

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