Tag Archives | Macs

New Targus Accessories Cater to Mac Users

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Seagate’s new hard drives designed specifically for Macs, and noted that it was interesting to see how booming sales for Macs have led large companies to enter the Mac market rather than flee it, as many were doing not so long ago. Here’s more confirmation of that trned: Targus, the big manufacturer of computer cases and mobile accessories, is rolling out its first products tailored for Mac users.

The “Targus for Mac” line includes mice, a USB hub, a presentation remote, a file-sharing cable, a cooling pad, and privacy screens. For the most part, their Mac-isness doesn’t relate to functionality, and Mac users already have access to products in all those categories which are fully Mac-compatible. But Targus has done a nice job of styling the products with a look that’s pleasingly complimentary to MacBooks and MacBook Pros without simply being an unimaginative knockoff of Apple’s own aesthetic.

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The Thirteen Greatest Error Messages of All Time

”To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer.” So goes an old quip attributed to Paul Ehrlich. He was right. One of the defining things about computers is that they–or, more specifically, the people who program them–get so many things so very wrong. Hence the need for error messages, which have been around nearly as long as computers themselves..

In theory, error messages should be painful at worst and boring at best. They tend to be cryptic; they rarely offer an apology even when one is due; they like to provide useless information like hexadecimal numbers and to withhold facts that would be useful, like plain-English explanations of how to right want went wrong. In multiple ways, most of them represent technology at its most irritating.

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VMware Fusion 2.0: A Better Way to Run Windows on a Mac?

For more than two years now, my primary computing platform has been Apple’s OS X with a virtualized copy of Windows XP and/or Vista running inside it. I started running the first program that could virtualize Windows on a Mac, Parallels Desktop, the moment it became available as a beta. And mostly, I’ve stuck with Parallels.

But Parallels’ archrival, VMware Fusion, is now shipping in version 2.0, after a few months of public beta. I’ve been using it for a few days and enjoying it. A few major features of the new version:

–The ability to do multiple snapshots of the state of a virtual machine, and to have Fusion create them automatically at set intervals, so you can jump  backwards if something goes wrong;

–Keyboard mapping so you can simulate Windows keypresses that don’t exist on a Mac;

–Better handling of file associations so Windows apps can open Mac documents and vice versa;

–mirroring of folders so that Windows’ My Pictures shows stuff stored in OS X’s equivalent, for instance;

–Support for DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2 3D graphics, making Fusion a more plausible platform for gaming and other heavy-duty 3D apps (the previous version and Parallels only go up to DirectX 8.1; Parallels also supports OpenGL);

–A year of free McAfee Viruscan Plus security (Parallels comes with six months of Kaspersky’s suite);

–Support for multiple monitors;

–General polish and fit and finish improvements to make the app as Mac-like as possible.

I wanna live with Fusion for a while before I make any attempt to declare a winner in the Mac virtualization race; both it and Parallels are pretty darn good, and the competition between them has unquestionably resulted in two strong products. There’s no doubt, however, that VMware tried to catch up with Parallels or surpass it in a number of places where the latter product was in the lead until now.

Virtualization still can’t replace running a native operating system in every case. Both Fusion and Parallels exact a stiff tax in the form of reduced battery life on my MacBook Pro, I find. And there are still apps that run poorly, or not at all. (As an experiment, I just tried to run Real’s RealDVD, thinking that the DVD-ripping functionality would be a good stress test–but it wouldn’t even install in Fusion.) So I also use Leopard’s Boot Camp feature to turn my MacBook Pro into a true, non-virtual PC…and I have a Vista desktop, too.

Oh yeah–what do I run within virtualized Windows? Office 2007, for one thing–I like it much more than the Mac’s Office 2008. And Internet Explorer 8. And Chrome. And other applications as I need ’em–it’s a blessing to be able to run nearly any Windows application without leaving OS X, as any virtualization fan can attest.

VMware Fusion is $80, but it’s a free upgrade for current users. You need a copy of Windows XP or Vista to use it (or another of the 90 operating systems it supports, including Linux and OS X Leopard Server). More thoughts once I’ve spent more time with it…


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Seagate’s New Drives, and the Resurgence of the Mac Peripheral Market

Hard-drive kingpin Seagate announced a refreshed lineup of FreeAgent external hard drives yesterday. The new models offer all the stuff you’d probably guess they would: more capacity at lower prices with a redone industrial design. The company also introduced what is, as far as I know, the first USB dock ever offered for hard drives–an optional holder for the FreeAgent Go portable drive line that sits on your desk and lets you plug in the drive without futzing with the cable. (It’s $29 and comes with a case for the drive.)

One of the most intriguing things about Seagate’s announcement is this: It’s expanded its FreeAgent offerings with drives designed specifically for Mac users. Smaller companies such as LaCie have catered to Macheads for years, but this is the first time that Seagate has done so. And the fact that a manufacturer as large as Seagate sees a business opportunity in the Mac market is yet another sign of the Mac’s resurgent good health. (It wasn’t all that long ago that big companies were fleeing the Mac, not catering to it.)

Of course, all of Seagate’s drives are Mac-compatible; I’ve used ’em with both PCs and Macs for years. So how did it make Mac-specific models?

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Apple: Superhuman or Merely Human?

Strange but true: These are either the best of times or the worst of times for Apple’s reputation–and it all depends on which developments you choose to pay attention to.

First the good news. The company’s performance in the just-released American Customer Satisfaction Index was terrific. The company scored an 85 in the study, well ahead of other computer companies such as Dell (75), HP (73), and Gateway (72). (Google, incidentally, did Apple one better, scoring an 86.)

Apple’s score represented its biggest jump ever over the previous year’s results, and the largest gulf ever between it and the rest of the PC industry. And it comes shortly after PC Magazine released the results of a reader survey that also showed Apple customers to be a more generally gruntled bunch than folks who use Windows-based PCs.

But these survey results arrive at a time when much of the news about Apple products involves them misbehaving. There’s the launch of the Mobile Me service–so glitchy that Apple says it’s still not up to the company’s own standards, and has extended three months (so far) of free service to subscribers to make amends. There’s the iPhone 3G’s ongoing issues with flaky 3G data and dropped calls, which Apple isn’t talking about much–although Steve Jobs is supposedly dashing off quick e-mails to iPhone owners saying  fixes for this and other problems are in the works. Even old first generation iPod Nanos are apparently deciding to catch on fire, just to add yet another burst of news stories about problematic Apple products.

Did I mention Mike Arrington’s post over at TechCrunch today saying that Apple is “flailing badly at the edges” and recounting the woes he’s had with multiple products from the company?

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Gulp! I Shop at Barnes & Noble and Eat at Boston Market

Here’s an insight: It’s never a great feeling to wake up to the possibility that an Estonian is running around with a homemade ATM card for your bank account. This and other news after the jump.
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