I am a sick man. Sunday's review of
Apple's iMac G5 marked the fifth anniversary of my column,
which would not be remarkable except that I haven't skipped a
column since the first one ran on Sept. 17, 1999. I don't know if
that qualifies me for an award or therapy ... somebody stop me
before I write again!
That iMac review in
Sunday's paper is a subject that was on my
calendar for a while, ever since Apple announced this summer that
-- whoops! -- it had stopped making the old iMac too soon. The
new model wouldn't be ready until September, and so customers
would have to do without until then. "We planned to have our next
generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs
runs out in the next few weeks, but our planning was obviously
less than perfect," the company confessed in an egg-on-face
statement on its Web site.
But while I knew that a new generation of iMac was in store, I
didn't know what form it would be. The Apple rumor sites wore
themselves out speculating over what form it would take; ideas
ranged from a version of the old design with an extra joint in the metal arm
supporting the LCD to versions of the computer-in-a-screen
model that actually shipped.
Personally, I was surprised to see Apple make the shift to that
design. Back when the iMac G4 was introduced in January of 2002,
Apple chief executive Steve Jobs spoke at
length of the problems that occur when trying to put a computer
inside a monitor -- the company's engineers had cobbled together
a prototype along those lines, which Jobs summarily rejected.
Instead, Apple came up with the iMac G4's screen-on-a-stalk
concept. In a keynote speech at the
Macworld Expo trade show in San Francisco,
Jobs proclaimed that this new design "has a beauty and a grace
that is going to last the next decade."
Well, he was off by about eight years. But Apple -- and the
computing industry -- is like that sometimes. Changing technology
makes the impossible possible, and some older ideas have to get
chucked into the trash.
Mozilla Updates Released
On a happier note, last week brought the arrival of two
(moderately) long-awaited updates to a popular Web browser and
e-mail client, Mozilla Firefox 1.0PR and Mozilla
Thunderbird 0.8. Both are available for Win 98 or
newer, Mac OS X and Linux.
The Firefox update is the bigger deal, so I'll talk about that
this week and save Thunderbird for next week's newsletter.
Firefox 1.0PR (Preview Release) is the last release before an
official 1.0 version ships, sometime this fall. But it's ready for use
now. Like earlier Firefox versions, it combines security (Firefox
blocks pop-ups and has none of Internet Explorer's vulnerabilities
or dangerous integration with Windows) with simplicity and
capability (Firefox offers the efficient option of tabbed browsing, in
which you can view multiple Web pages in one window).
Firefox 1.0PR adds a thoughtful new Find toolbar, which
emerges unobtrusively at the bottom of its window when you start
typing a search query for a word on a page (just hit the '/' key
before typing what you're looking for). It searches as you type,
highlighting the first bit of text that matches the characters you've
entered. "Find Next" and "Find Previous" buttons skip forward or
backwards to other instances of the search term; a "Highlight"
button paints ever occurrence in yellow.