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Apple's iMac G5 and Mozilla's Firefox Update

Monday, September 20, 2004;

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.

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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.


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