Tag Archives: iMac

Apple Store Personal Shopper

I just thought I’d post a few words about the Apple Store Personal Shopper service, which Apple have been plugging in their UK stores – and probably across the rest of the world too. The basic idea is simple, it’s a free service where you book an appointment slot, and for that period you get a dedicated member of staff to take you through all the products you are interested in.

On Saturday, we went with Mum off to her local Apple Store, which is in the Brent Cross shopping centre just off the end of the M1, to look about upgrading her Mac. We had a basic shopping list of what she needed in terms of software, but there were a couple of key questions – specifically over the size of iMac she wanted – 20“ or 24â€?, and she also wanted to replace her current separate printer and scanner with an all-in-one, so wanted to look at those. As with pretty well every other Apple Store it is absolutely heaving on a Saturday afternoon, but having booked an appointment with the personal shopper they had a couple of demonstration iMac’s available, and an assistant available to answer questions.

It certainly was beneficial, as Mum was able to try both the 20“ and the 24â€? models and decided fairly swiftly that the 24“ was a bit too big, from there we were also able to look at the selection of all-in-one’s they had, and opt for a Canon unit on which the store was offering a £60 cashback offer, and also pick up copies of iWork and Filemaker Bento too to cover a couple of other requirements she had for the machine.

The Personal Shopper service does seem to be very much set up for people who are new to Apple, so certainly the assistant we had was improvising slightly rather than working through what would be her usual routine as we already knew about a lot of the stuff she was going to show. Having said that there was a big advantage in that when we were talking software and printers she was pretty much immediately able to look up stock and in one case go and get a package from the store room, and then to round it all off they helped us take all the packages to the car as well.

Loads of New Apple Stuff

Typical – I’m away on holiday and totally offline for a week, and Apple launch a whole load of new stuff including iLife ’08, iWork ’08 (which has beaten Microsoft themselves in producing an application that can actually open Office 2007 documents), a speed bump for the Mac Mini, and last but by no means least, a new look aluminium and glass iMac with a brand new keyboard design – although quite how usable the new ultra-thin design will be remains to be seen.

Memory Upgrade

iMac G5 Opened Up

So I’ve finally got around to upgrading the memory in our iMac G5. Back when we got our first Mac, it was recommended as pretty well the first purchase for the machine. At that time, Apple shipped their consumer machines with a paltry 256Mb of memory on board, so it was pretty well essential to avoid a lot of waiting around. When we got this machine, they were shipping with 512Mb of memory, which is pretty much adequate, and it only really causesproblems when we you try to multi-task a lot of applications, or load something big.

Unfortunately, as time has gone on and our iPhoto collection has grown, and our iTunes database has expanded, loading either application tended to result in a large lump of the active memory disappearing, and then a good deal of disk activity as the operating system starts swapping memory off to disk, so I decided that it was about time I upgraded. MacOS X, like Windows XP likes as much memory as it can get.

Anyway, I pointed my browser at Crucial Technology, and stepped through their useful Memory Advisor tool that makes sure you get the right memory modules. The iMac has two memory slots, each of which can take up to 1Gb, and ships with a single 512Mb module in one slot. Although it is quite happy to take different types of module in each slot, it runs better with a matched pair, so after some going back and forth, I decided to go the whole hog and get the full 2Gb upgrade. My figuring is that iPhoto and iTunes are only going to get larger, so whilst 1Gb may be adequate for now, we may as well do it in one step, and then there is only one redundant module rather than two.

The upgrade turned up in the post yesterday, and I grabbed a copy of the Apple Upgrade instructions. Because of the compact design, the upgrade is a bit more involved than the equivalent upgrade for an eMac. To do the job on an iMac G5 you have to loosen three screws, and flip open the entire back of the machine, giving a good view of the whole of the innards of the machine, including the processor, the hard drive and the motherboard. The memory slots are pretty obvious and easy to get to, and the actual process of putting in the new memory is pretty quick. The only slightly complicated bit is ensuring that the clips at the top of the back slot back into place.

Having said that, it’s made a big difference to the performance, especially with iPhoto which comes up noticeably quicker. My thought is that with the lower amount of memory iPhoto is loading and almost immediately swapping memory out to the disk, resulting in a good deal of the disk access. Certainly it will be interesting to see what else runs faster, but if you’ve got a Mac with 512Mb memory I can certainly recommend beefing it up a bit.

Mac Expo 2006

So after the stress of earlier in the week, we took a nice outing to the annual feast of Mac and iPod that is the Mac Expo, which thanks to our free tickets that I picked up two months ago only cost us the train fare (a lot less than the £24 it would have cost us both to go in normally).

Google Stand

The exhibition was in the same place as last year, Kensington Olympia in London. There was an interesting selection of exhibitors with big stands from HP, Quark, Adobe and Wacom, a big stand from Google who were new for this year, but no presence this year from Microsoft. Apple again had the largest stand, but had noticeably changed the balance, with a lot fewer machines to play with in favour of a larger space for the theatre area where they gave regular demonstration throughout the day.

Podcasting seemed to be a definite theme with a number of people circulating round with digital recorders interviewing people on the stands, and Apple themselves majoring on the podcasting features in their software. They even had the Capital Radio Routemaster bus inside the hall which was being used to record regular podcasts throughout the event.

iMac Range

As in previous years the iMac was much in evidence, being the demonstration machine of choice across the show, with the majority being the latest Intel models, and only one of the original G3 and one G4 in evidence. Apple had their full current range, right up to the 24 inch monster – which on it’s own didn’t seem that big, until you compared it with the smaller models alongside. At the other end of the size spectrum was the MacBook which was being shown in both black and white guises, has a great screen, and is significantly smaller than I was expecting. Whilst it definitely seemed quite attractive, with the recent news that the Intel Core Duo 2 has gone into the MacBook Pro, I’m tempted to wait and see if the same processor makes it into the MacBooks too.

Anyway, despite some temptations, and the usual selection of show special offers, we managed to make it out without spending vast sums of money, needless to say there may come a Macbook or 24 inch iMac discussion at sometime soon… 😀

MacExpo 2005

Whose Show Is It Again?

So after spending last Saturday wearing my developer hat, this week we spent our Saturday being Mac fans, at MacExpo 2005.

If you’d forgotten where you were going, you certainly were reminded about it when you arrived at Olympia station – the place was covered with matching Apple iPod adverts, including banners on every streetlamp, all with the familiar black figure, with white iPod, this time on a red and orange background. As Howard said on the way out, whatever you think about Apple and their products, you can’t fault their advertising for simple brand awareness.

Once inside it was straight into the action. Adobe was directly by the door, but behind that was the biggest stand at the show, the Apple stand itself. Alongside those were a number of other big names including BMW with their iPod equipped 1-Series, HP, Sony, Bose, and even a large stand from Microsoft showcasing Office 2004 and Virtual PC.

One interesting little game was to see if you could spot any PC’s. On the way in, all the registration and ticket sales were being carried out using iMacs, with many other stands using a Mac for sales as well as demonstrations. Even Microsoft had only Macs on show. In fact the only stand I could spot that was blatantly showing PC’s was Sony, who alongside demonstrating using their cameras with the Mac, had several of their own VIAO PC’s attracting little interest.

The big products Apple were showing off this year hardware wise were the iPod Nano, video playing fifth generation iPod and the new revision C iMac G5. In terms of software, the big new package was Aperture, best described as a professional equivalent of iPhoto.

Demo Time

Needless to say there was a non-stop programme of demonstrations on the stand. Beth and Howard both got to play with the new iPods, and we saw the demonstrations of the new iMac, where much was made of the simplicity of the new Front Row software and it’s six button remote. I was really impressed with Aperture, particularly the speed with which it throws around batches of large RAW format images. Although it has good Photoshop integration, for most of the basic image edit work, you don’t even need to leave the application.

It wasn’t only graphics people that were provided for. Over in another part of the hall, there was Rod Gammons demonstrating how he put together a Liberty-X hit with Logic Pro, with the whole record, including vocals stored away in his Mac.

Games Experience

We finished off with a visit to the corner of the exhibition attempting to disprove the myth that you can’t play games on a Mac. Here they had a mixture of Macs playing everything from Sims 2 to Doom 3. However what Beth really liked was Lego: Star Wars. If you haven’t seen this, this review over at the BBC explains more. Essentially this is a Star Wars game aimed squarely at kids, with a number of sequences from the films recreated, but using graphics that look Lego bricks. There are a number of comedy Lego moments as everything breaks into constituent bricks when destroyed, and there are some comedy close ups of the expressions on the Lego character faces at key moments. Great fun, but we didn’t think we could justify a copy just for us big kids!

Anyway, we had a great afternoon seeing what is going on in the world of Apple, and we’re now looking forward to doing it all again next year!

Typical Part 3

Isn’t this just always the way. Within a month of getting a new iMac, Apple update the range.

Looking over the specs of the new machine, they have merged the bottom of the range 17 inch CDRW machine, with the middle of the range 17 inch Superdrive model that we got. However a look at the technical specs makes interesting reading, although the headline is that they now only do a Superdrive equipped machine, the detail is a slightly different, so whereas we got a 17 inch screen with the top of the range processor speed, bus speed and graphics card, to get all of that you now have to go to the £1199 20 inch model. Indeed although the processor speed is increased compared to the old bottom of the range model, it is actually slower than ours. There are some new toys, like supplying the Mighty Mouse instead of the classic single button Mac mouse (maybe I should frame our mouse as a collectors item or something), plus a built in iSight, and a fancy media interface and remote.

So moving on from the annoyance at the upgrade, putting the realistic hat on, at the time we had to buy a new Mac anyway, as it was our main machine for e-mail and the like. Looking at the new toys, the Mighty Mouse would have been nice, but the built in iSight and media interface probably wouldn’t get much use from us. The updated graphics card would also be good, but again, the main use we make of the Mac is not for stuff that really needs it. The regular upgrade cycle is pretty normal, however it was still a bit of a surprise as the processor speeds had only fairly recently been tweaked. The new Mac isn’t suddenly going to cease to work just because the new model has come out, and to be honest it would have ended up costing me more had these been around when I upgraded as I probably would have gone for the higher spec 20 inch model.

Looking at the other new release, the video iPod, it has been long denied, but again is another example of Apple trying to throw the competition off the scent. In the UK the availability of legal video is probably going to be limited for a while, however I expect with that and the iPod Nano they should keep their place at the top of the media player market.