Monday, July 7, 2003

When does a computing platform border on an addiction? When it’s Apple’s Macintosh. During the past several weeks, I have discovered even more reasons for keeping a Mac as my primary computer.

One of the neatest is iSync, which lets you keep data, well, in sync among different computers, a cell phone and even a Palm-based handheld computer.

The feature has been out for a while and is enhanced when users partake of a “.Mac” account, the $99.95-per-year Apple service that offers e-mail, a rather nice amount of server space for a Web site and file storage, and other goodies.

What I liked about iSync is its effortless operation. Install the software, set a few preferences, and you’re good to go. It’s especially helpful that the software can manage (and merge) Internet Web page “bookmarks” created and stored in the Safari Web browser, another Apple software product. This way, you stand a better chance of not losing any such bookmarks as you move from machine to machine.

The software also will ship numbers — and even photos — from your Mac OS X Address Book application to certain cell phones, such as the Sony Ericsson T68i. Update Sally’s number on your desktop machine — or on the cell phone — and the next time you synchronize, everything is updated.

Not only does the iSync program handle phone numbers, it also takes entries from Apple’s iCal calendar program and sends those to a phone — or your Palm or even an Apple iPod music player, the latter having software to show appointments and addresses on demand.

And if you have that .Mac account, you can log on to a Web site and access your address book information even if you don’t have a Macintosh computer handy. Talk about integration — this could mean the end of disorganization for some users.

None of this would be worthwhile if the software didn’t work easily, which it does. There’s not a lot of complicated setup, nor have there been many glitches in my experience with iSync. The software is free, though you must be running the OS X system software, and the .Mac account, as said before, is optional. But this is the kind of “thinking system” that computing needs more, and Apple deserves kudos for providing it.

Another nice Macintosh program is iPhoto. I have yet to find anything better for just organizing pictures and showing them off in various ways, and the “slideshow” feature — which can include musical backgrounds — is so easy and inviting that even an “all thumbs” type like me can make sense of it.

I keep bumping into iPhoto whenever I hook up a digital camera. Again, the nice part is being able just to plug in a camera, set the mode to “playback” and have the software handle setup and make it easy for me to decide where photos should be filed, and how.

There are other photo-organizing programs for the Mac and for Windows-based PCs. But iPhoto sets a high standard for the competition, and it’s the kind of software many users will appreciate.

Information on these items can be found at Apple Computer’s Web site,

One other Mac feature — or, more precisely, implementation — worth discussing is how Apple handles Bluetooth communications. I plugged a Belkin Bluetooth module into a PowerBook, downloaded the Apple software, and within seconds, I was transferring telephone numbers and e-mail addresses from my computer to the T68i phone. It’s almost magical, and it works quite nicely.

Having heard some Bluetooth horror stories from PC users, it’s nice to see the technology work here.

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