- The Washington Times - Monday, April 22, 2002

It's been about six weeks since I've switched over to Apple Computer's Macintosh operating system for the bulk of my work. So far, so good. Not perfect, mind you, but pretty darned good overall.
The best part: Mac OS X is pretty rock-solid. It takes a lot and I mean a whole lot to make this operating system hiccup, let alone freeze. In fact, I can't recall a single "freeze" or "crash" in using OS X, version 10.1.3 (don't ask; I didn't name it) and heaven knows, I've tried to bring it down. Because this operating system has the older (by about 30 years) Unix operating system at its core, the odds are pretty good that it'll hold up just fine.
Of course, Apple has gussied up plain, old, command-line-driven Unix with a very spiffy graphical interface. That, in turn, makes it possible for mere mortals to use the computer, while underneath that pretty exterior is a sturdy framework. But when compared with every version of Microsoft Windows that I've used since 1986, including the rather good Windows XP, Mac OS X is a winner of an operating system.
The worst part: as noted once before, there are applications written for Microsoft Windows that don't appear in Mac-land, come what may. Those applications are relatively few, I'm happy to report. Whether it's word processing, spreadsheets, databases, e-mail, Web site creation, graphics, publishing have I mentioned enough categories there's very likely to be a very good Mac application to fit your needs.
For those times when I absolutely, positively need a Windows application on my iMac (about which more in a minute), there's Virtual PC version 5, from Connectix Corp. of San Mateo, Calif., online at www.connectix.com. The software, $250 when packaged with a copy of Microsoft Windows 2000, creates a "virtual machine" on your Mac system and installs a copy of Microsoft MS-DOS, Windows (95 through XP Pro) or Linux in a separate "partition" on your hard drive. Fire up the "Virtual PC" program, start the OS and you're off and running.
Speed is dependent upon the processor your Mac has and the amount of RAM available. In testing, my Virtual PC chugged along with 256 MB of RAM; it worked much better at 512 MB, and would probably scream with 1 GB of RAM, the maximum possible in the new iMac. (A tip of the hat to Crucial Technologies, www.crucial.com, for sending along extra RAM to use in this review.)
My biggest surprise came a few weeks back when one of Apple Computer's new, sleek, iMacs arrived for testing. The $1,600 system I tested came with, as mentioned, the 256 MB of RAM, a 40 gigabyte hard disk drive (less than half full after loading it with a ton of programs, data and the Virtual PC/Windows 2000 combo), a 15-inch active matrix flat-panel display, an NVIDIA GeForce2 MX w/32MB DDR graphics card (translation: it produces sharp, good images), a keyboard, mouse and speakers. A combination CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive lets you watch DVD movies and "burn" CD-ROM discs, and is built into the unit.
The iMac looks as others, notably Time magazine, have noted like a snowball with a monitor growing out of the top. Except that in this case, the flat monitor moves like a swing-arm lamp, and is very easy to position, or reposition. I enjoy working with this system, physically, as much as I have with any computer I've ever used, if not more so. It is "cool," yes, but the cool factor is backed up by a solidly performing machine that would be at home in many environments. It's the kind of computer I'd want to give my dad, when his Internet appliance finally gives up the ghost, principally because it is very easy to set up and use.
That ease of use which extended to the installation of the extra RAM: Just loosen the bottom panel screws, remove the panel, clip in the RAM and you're done is also a hallmark of the Mac environment and of most Mac applications. Apple's iPhoto is a very easy way to work with a digital camera and the images it produces; the firm's iTunes is a great music-file manager and CD-burning software, and it is available free.
I'm moving dangerously close to making a lifetime commitment here at least for the "lifetime" of my next computer. Will it all work out? Shall I take the plunge? Stay tuned and feel free to e-mail me with your questions and comments on your own Mac experiences.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mr. Kellner on www.adrenalineradio.com every Friday from 5 to 6 p.m. EST.


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