AMITIAE - Wednesday 5 February 2014

Opening Gambit - Bangkok Post, Life

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


The original text of today's article in the Bangkok Post, Life, is below. I had written for the Post Database technical supplement for over 20 years and when that closed with the reorganisation at the newspaper, my columns were dropped, along with the writing of many other freelance contributors. I have now been asked to write eXtensions columns again.

Since I first started using Macs, the Apple world I work in has changed somewhat, even in Thailand where there are far more stores than before: iBeat, iStore and uStore; as well as other outlets such as in Power Mall and many of the main department stores.

iMac There is cause and effect at work here. Apple began its regeneration with the 1998 release of the Bondi Blue iMacs. For information on all Macs, try the Mactracker app from Ian Page. That first iMac was followed by candy-coloured MacBooks, but many say that the real turning point was the 2007 announcement of the iPhone. I was lucky enough to be in the audience that day and had my hands on one of the first iPhones the next morning.

This was followed by a series of new products: the MacBook Air; then the release of the iPad; as well as other MacBook Pro notebook computers; redesigned iMacs and most recently an evolutionary Mac Pro. As powerful and desirable as that is, it is not for everyone, but if you do have the chance, take a look inside.

With the new devices and the new availability, come new users. I started writing about Macs with the intention of helping those new to Macs and OS X (which was really new in those days) and I hope to carry on like that. My website has several items, some of which are a little more technical for those interested in that sort of thing. As well as Macs and OS X, I write about the iPhone and related devices - now under the umbrella of iOS. That will continue in Life, space permitting.

The link for my site should be at the bottom of the page, but just do a Google search for eXtensions+Macs and a link should come up somewhere on the first page.

Through email and my telephone I occasionally have messages with the general theme of, "Help", so it is clear that not everyone finds using a Mac as easy as me. OS X is not magic, it has some horrible parts to it, but there is a logic to the way it works. Not everyone may see it that way and my first rule when making suggestions to new users is, "It ain't Windows".

As widely used as Microsoft's operating systems are, there are inevitable differences which some new users (and some not so new) do not realise. Although there are now a number of similarities, Cupertino and Redmond are not interchangeable.

I think that makes the Mac and the iOS devices work so well is the software. A user pays a premium price for a device from Apple, but particularly on the Mac, most users could get by without installing any more software than the computer arrives with. While the iPhone and iPad have some basic apps installed, users do need more to make the devices work to their full, but as there is much freeware on the iTunes App Store, this is all relatively painless.

There are some similarities between iOS and OS X devices, but while I have seen 3 year-olds pick up an iPad and start playing, a Mac needs a slightly more mature approach. I did watch a 15 year-old start using a Mac for the first time and teach himself iMovie in a couple of days.

Apple is moving more and more towards delivery using Wi-Fi. That has several effects. For downloads a good internet connection is essential; and to synchronise devices (important for users of Apple devices) a good home Wi-Fi setup is also useful.

Many new computers coming from Apple have no disk drives, because of the move to wireless downloads, but there are other changes too. I bought a new MacBook Pro at the end of last year. It no longer has an Ethernet port, there was no infrared availability for the remote control and Firewire has been superseded by Thunderbolt. This technology allows faster connections (up to 20 GB/sec, with more to come) and allows linking to multiple devices, including monitors. The Mac still has USB ports (3.0) and 4.0 Bluetooth. It also has the latest high-speed Wi-Fi (802.11ac).

The current Macs are grouped into desktop and portable devices. Desktops start with the Mac mini, include the iMac and at the top (in cost and power) is the Mac Pro. Many home users like the iMac with its 21" or 27" screens, but for those who already have a PC, the Mac mini makes a good starter device as it makes use of almost any mouse, a PC screen and a basic keyboard. To give an idea of how versatile these are, Macminicolo has a server farm in Nevada: hundreds of Mac minis all lined up.

Additional Information

  • The text (above) remains unchanged except for the addition of links to make other sites mentioned more easily accessible.

  • The Mactracker app is also available via the Mac App Store

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.



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