washingtonpost.com  > Live Discussions > Technology > Fast Forward
Transcript

Mac Mini

Rob Pegoraro
Washington Post Personal Technology Columnist
Monday, January 31, 2005; 2:00 PM

A Transcript Follows

Want to know what upcoming topics are being covered? Sign up for Fast Forward e-letter -- get updated information on personal technology news and product demos. Read past editions of Rob's e-letter online here.

Rob Pegoraro (The Post)

____Related Links____
Personal Technology section
Recent columns by Rob Pegoraro
Fast Forward E-letter Archive
TechNews.com
• Talk: Message Boards
• Live Online Transcripts


Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

_____________

Rob Pegoraro: Good afternoon... I'm here to talk about Apple's new Mac mini (which I'm using to conduct this chat), along with any other tech topics you might be curious about. Let's get started!

_______________________

Pasadena, Calif.: I have a perfectly good (although large) Sony monitor purchased around 1996-7. Would I have any problem using it with the Mini-Mac? Is this actually the best Mac available now for my kids to use. I love my I-Mac but they need their own computer now. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, your Sony monitor should work fine with the mini. It has a DVI port on the back (for use with any digital display) but a VGA adapter is included in the box (which lets you connect almost any other display out there).

_______________________

Herndon, Va.: Have you ever heard of a USB hub? They can be easily found for under $20 and alleviate your USB whining.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes, I've heard of hubs--I tested a couple with the mini. But asking buyers to shell out another $20 for a separate box (which may need its own power outlet as well) doesn't strike me as any sort of optimal solution to the USB situation on this machine. You don't want the customer to feel like he's getting nickel-and-dimed on the way out of the store.

_______________________

Ithaca, N.Y.: Have you or anyone you know tried to use a KVM switch (such as this one on the Apple web site) to use a MAC and PC off the same USB keyboard and mouse and not be hassled by inappropriate or missing buttons for one or the other? How well does it work? Can you recommend a specific brand of keyboard and mouse that you know works? Does the Apple video cable adapter work with most standard analog PC monitors?

Rob Pegoraro: I didn't test a KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) switch the mini; I don't think that many buyers will use this next to an existing PC. As for using third-party keyboards and mice with the mini's own USB ports, the answer is that they all pretty much work. Same with monitors.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: How upgradable is the mini after-market?

Does additional RAM, Bluetooth, Airport, new video have to be purchased at the point of sale?

Rob Pegoraro: No, you can buy those upgrades afterwards--but, as I wrote, getting at the mini's innards is not at all easy. (Let's just say that I've never had to use a pizza cutter to open a computer's case before.)

_______________________

Anonymous: Does the mini, or I guess OSX, play well with windows network shares, printer shares etc...? I want to get only the 40GB model in hopes that I can use network storage if it fills up, its going to be a play toy more then anything else so I don't want to spend more then I have to.

I think apple might have something here I am a windows developer and am considering getting a mini to play with.

Rob Pegoraro: Mac OS X makes a very good Windows client--and a good Windows server. Connecting to a server is at least as easy as on Windows, and starting Windows file sharing is probably simpler than in Windows itself (select the Sharing system-preferences pane, select "Windows sharing" and click a big "start" button).

_______________________

Warrenton, Va.: Rob, weren't you a little hard on the miniMac for having only two USB ports? A quick check at BestBuy shows that a 7-port USB hub can be had for $50. Plug one of these into your miniMac and you have 8 USB ports available. 4-port hubs are also available for $20 or less.

Rob Pegoraro: No, I'm not too hard on the mini for that. A some-assembly-required approach is just not what customers should have to go through, especially not with a product from Apple. And in looking at the back of the mini's case, I see more than enough room for a third USB port.

_______________________

Rockville, Md.: Would the new Mini Mac be good for a senior citizen's system? If so, what else would be needed? The main uses are for email and web surfing, as mentioned in another WashPost article from yesterday. Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Surf City, Here She Comes (Jan. 30, 2005)

Rob Pegoraro: I think so, yes. While I don't think the stock configuration has enough memory, 256 megs *is* enough for Web and e-mail use.

_______________________

Philadelphia: Rob,

I recently convinced my girlfriend that it was time for her to spring for a new Powerbook G4 (12"). Now I'm reading rumors in a few places that Apple is getting ready to release G5 Powerbooks. What do you think? Will we see them before June?

Rob Pegoraro: That's possible but doubtful. Apple just updated its PowerBook lineup this morning (note that on this line of computers, it has finally made 512 megs of memory standard), and June is not that far off. By then, you might have a better idea of when a G5 PowerBook might arrive, but shipping hardware? Seems improbable to me at the moment.

_______________________

Boston: Rob:

My head is spinning. At home I have wirelessly networked Windows laptop and imac flat panel at home. At home, my wife and kids use the imac -- a couple of ipods are synched -- and i poke around on the five-year-old laptop, which i upgraded to XP Pro recently. I'm about ready to buy a new computer at home, but am paralyzed by indecision.

Assuming I go Mac, what are the relative merits between an ibook and an imac mini. (I love the all-in-one imac, but am too enthralled with my wireless portability to hunker down with another desktop.)

Rob Pegoraro: That's an interesting comparison--I think of the Mac mini as, in essence, an iBook without its screen, keyboard and battery. If portability is that important, I would suggest getting the iBook. Not only is it much easier to carry around the house, it also includes WiFi, while on the Mac mini you'd pay extra to get that.

_______________________

Wheaton, Md.: What's to make us think this Mac Mini isn't another disaster like the Macintosh "Cube," which was small, slick and attractive . . . and a complete disaster with its overheating issue?

Rob Pegoraro: It costs between a third and a quarter of the Cube. There's no comparison here at all... the Cube was supposed to be a top-of-the-line luxury item. This is built to be a computer sold in mass quantities to homes, schools and businesses. Y'know, that whole "computer for the rest of us" thing.

_______________________

Takoma Park, Md.: Just about the only display that WON'T work on the mini is Apple's oldest flat panel Studio Display (the 15-incher with the ADC connector). You have to get a DVI-ADC adapter, which costs about $100.

Life's little ironies department.

Rob Pegoraro: True! ADC never did seem like a great idea at the time--you couldn't even use those monitors with Apple's own laptops without one of those adapters. I admire Apple's obsession with simplifying technology, but in this case (a monitor cable that combined video, power and USB into one proprietary cord) it went way too far.

_______________________

A Fan from Manassas, Va.: Hi, Rob. Love your chats. Need to post early. I have a Treo 650 and AOL email. How can I sync my AOL address book with my Treo? It seems the Treo 650 is not yet supported by AOL. If that is the case, do you know when it will be? Thanks. Keep up the great work!

Rob Pegoraro: You can access your AOL mail easily enough--just set up the Treo's own mail software to access your AOL account via IMAP (google for "AOL IMAP" for instructions on this). But the address book? You'd have to export that to your desktop, via the insanely complicated workaround I wrote about a month or so ago in Help File, then bring those addresses into the Palm Desktop application.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Help File: Copying an AOL Address Book on a Windows PC (December 19, 2004)

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon everyone - I have two questions and thank you in advance for your answer

1. Is it worth paying AOL $24 a month for their services because they offer virus protection now - how good is this protection?

2. My friend has an illegal copy of Windows XP and she said there is no reason to ever believe that Microsoft would cut off her access to critical updates as this would cause too many more viruses/worms to be spread; as there are so many people who have illegal copies. She has lent it out to so many to copy and calls me foolish to have gone out and bought my copy and legally registered it.

Rob Pegoraro: 1) The virus software AOL offers is good, but a year of virus protection bought separately will still cost less than the difference between AOL's rates and those of any other dial-up provider. (A lot less, if you use the free AVG program we reviewed yesterday.)

2) Your friend is the fool, not you. Microsoft recently announced that it would cut off pirated copies of Windows XP from all updates save security fixes.

_______________________

Hampton, S.C.: Rob,

Got an iPod for Christmas, and love it. I've had to give up my beloved MusicMatch Jukebox, (Yeah, I'm THAT guy) so I can manage my songs with the iTunes. Do you (or the readers) know of an plug-in that will let me tag the song files from the web? Of course, any new songs ripped from commercial CDs are tagged, but I have hundreds of old mp3s and mix CDs that have incomplete tagging. Help. Save me countless hours of research and typing.

Rob Pegoraro: Windows Media Player has the feature you're looking for.

_______________________

Thurmont, Md.: Being a relatively new user to the Macintosh environment, I see how dominated the market is by the PC. Will the affordability and size of the new Mac Mini finally take the Macintosh into the main stream market?

Rob Pegoraro: That's certainly what Apple hopes; the interest I've seen thus far makes me think that could very well happen. (FWIW, in its last quarter Apple saw its own computer sales grow 26 percent, while the industry as a whole only saw 10 percent or so growth in sales... so there's already some switching going on.)

_______________________

Georgetown, D.C.: Is the price of the iPod expected to come down ever? I've been hesitating to buy one, hoping the price will drop. The iPod Shuffle doesn't count -- ick.

Rob Pegoraro: I doubt it. After the first round or two of updates, Apple seems to have settled on fixed price structure for iPods, in which the basic model goes for $299 and upgrades are offered at $50 or $100 increments above that; with each new model, the storage or features may increase, but the price stays the same. (The iPod mini added a new pricing tier, but I fully expect its successor to offer more storage at the same price, not the same storage for less.)

_______________________

McLean, Va., firefox question: Is there a way to neatly organize all my firefox and IE bookmarks? I have imported my IE bookmarks into firefox, but it isn't pretty. I'd like to have just 1 set of bookmarks rather than one set imported into the other- to avoid duplicate folders, entries etc. Maybe there's an add in I need to download?

washingtonpost.com: Firefox Leaves No Reason to Endure Internet Explorer (Nov. 14, 2004)

Rob Pegoraro: Nope--just go to Firefox's Bookmarks menu and select "Manage Bookmarks"

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: Reviews: Mercenaries; The Punisher; AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition (January 30, 2005)

_______________________

Brooklyn, N.Y.: Rob,

I'm interested in getting away from PC's but I'm hesitant to go to Mac. How different are the two in terms of just the standard surfing the net. Also what Dell model would you compare the Mini to?

Thanks.

Rob Pegoraro: Out of the box, any Mac is better than a Windows PC--Safari is a much better browser than IE. (It's not that much better than Firefox, but PC manufacturers have yet to get around to bundling that browser.)

In my price comparisons, I looked at Dell's Dimension 2400, the entry-level model in its lineup. Dell does make a sort-of-compact desktop, the Dimension 4700C, but that's much more expensive, and still larger, than the mini.

_______________________

Anonymous: for the Ipod buyer in Georgetown. Scan Ebay next time a new model comes out, you will probably find many less used models for sale cheap there is a large population of Ipoders that will buy the new version just to say they have the new version.

Rob Pegoraro: Good tip... you'll also probably find the new iPod being auctioned off above list price there. (I've seen iPod Shuffles going for $20 and $40 above list on eBay; I guess some people just can't bear to wait to get one.)

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Wpost/RSS feeds:

Why doesn't the Washington Post put RSS in the header information of it's web pages. Firefox therefore doesn't detect and it is a pain to add the feed.

Rob Pegoraro: That's a question for the people at WPNI, not me, but I'll post this for their attention.

_______________________

Falls Church, Va.: The "Switch" campaign was one of the most brilliant advertising campaigns devised by Apple. It became a cultural phenomenon. Countless homages and parodies were made based on it.

I think it was the biggest marketing mistake Apple Computer has ever made.

The instant the word "switch" came out from Apple, a huge gigantic wall appeared. Switching brings up the image of having to start over with everything. "Let's switch to metric!" "Oh God, I don't how how many liters it is from here to New York!"

"Let's switch to HDTV!" "No! I'll have to buy all new TVs and VCRs and DVD players and oh no! Do I need a new stereo, too?"

Anybody who was in the market for a second computer heard Mac fanatics talk about switching, and in their minds eye began thinking that Macs are more trouble than it is worth... that you have to learn new things, and they spent years learning Windows and all that, and were quite reasonably scared that they'd have to go through some massive learning curve once again. The word switch manages to sabotage every attempt to show that using a Mac is easy or intuitive. Switching is never easy.

I think Apple should banish the word switch from its vocabulary.

Rob Pegoraro: Well, I haven't seen any of those "switcher" ads lately... realistically, BTW, moving to any new computer is a "switch" that entails some pain and frustration. It's a question of what you get in return for the new purchase compared to sticking with the old machine.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: IPod Shuffle Review: A Surprising New Mini-Player in the Music Game (Jan. 23, 2005)

_______________________

Columbia, Md.: I'm seriously considering the Mac Mini; I don't own a computer right now (last was a first generation iMac).

Right now I'm shopping for a monitor. What do you think the cost/benefit ratio is in opting for a monitor with digital input vs. a standard analog plug?

Thanks for answering our questions!

Rob Pegoraro: A monitor with a DVI connection will look sharper than one with VGA analog. Fortunately, the price premium for them seems to be shrinking pretty quickly--I saw a 17-in. LCD with DVI input at Buy.com, I think, for under $300 last week. (Naturally, it was out of stock :(

_______________________

Bloomington, Minn.: How would this system be for all of my i-tunes music. Is the sound card good? Could a good pair of computer speakers & a sub fill a 12'x 12' room with quality sound? How about a wireless card and the airport express to send music to my home stereo? Can I put a Mac on my home network with 2 PC's?

Rob Pegoraro: The sound circuitry here is the same as on any other Mac, and it sounded pretty good to me and the audiophile friend who gave it a listen (we plugged it into his Bose tabletop stereo for the test; Randy commented that it sounded much better than his Dell laptop did through those same speakers).

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Rob, I'm sure you're going to get some Mac Mini vs. -other Mac] questions today...so I'll just be one of them. I have an old iMac, one of the "bubble" looking kind. I think it's a G3/400 Mhz. So any new Mac would be a huge upgrade for me. However, I don't have a monitor, I'd have to buy one. One reason I hate getting rid of my current computer is that the monitor is perfectly fine, it's the innards that are out of date.

Do you think a Mac Mini would be worth getting JUST so that, if I ever want to upgrade later down the line, I won't have to worry about discarding a computer with a functioning monitor? Or should I still look at one of the all-in-one models? I surf, write, fool around with iTunes, use iPhoto, but I don't do anything really processor-intensive like graphics programs or computer games.

Rob Pegoraro: That's one of the big selling points of the mini. For the same reason, I'm not a fan of the 20-inch iMac G5--that's too much screen to have locked inside a computer that will become obsolete faster than its display.

_______________________

Edmond, Okla.: For tagging MP3 files in iTunes, try iEatbrainz. This program takes songs that you've chosen in your iTunes Library, that have incorrect or missing information for Title, Artist or Album , and then uses the sound of each song to match it with the correct information maintained in the MusicBrainz Database (musicbrainz.org). This processing typically takes several seconds per song, and then it allows you to verify before updating your iTunes Library. You can find it by searching VersionTracker.

Rob Pegoraro: Thanks for the suggestion!

_______________________

Lititz, Pa.: Dear Rob: I own a 1 1-2 year old Dell 2400 Windows XP which I added SP2 with Celeron Processor. I added memory to 384RAM which has helped immensely. However, I have been plagued by spyware, adware, etc. I now use Spysweeper 3.5, Ad-Aware and Spyblaster which helps a lot. I have had to re-format the hard drive at least twice. I use MSN Explorer because my ISP is MSN 9 dial-up. My question to you is if I switch to the new Apple $499 model and use my monitor, keyboard, mouse will I notice substantial speed-up in browsing? I have Firefox on my desktop but use the MSN Explorer for browsing because my email and navigation bar is there. Would I be better off paying for broadband than switching to Apple? Sincerely, slowed-down Mark

Rob Pegoraro: The mini should be faster than your Dell, but the real speedup should be from your not having to run all those anti-spyware and anti-adware programs all the time (think of what you could do with the time spent running AdAware and SpyBot every few days).

FYI, Microsoft makes a version of its MSN software for Mac OS X, but you should be able to set up your connection using the Internet software already built into a Mac.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Hi Rob, does mac mini heat up during long-term, continuous usage?

Rob Pegoraro: Nope. The top is barely above room temperature as I type this, and I can't remember it ever getting past that.

_______________________

Tampa, Fla.: Given the healthy profit margins Apple earns on its products, why don't they ship the Mini with a realistic amount of RAM (at least 512 MB)? The low-end Window PCs frustrate users with 256 MB or even 128 MB, yielding molasses-like performance. I'm trying to convince a sibling to get a Mini, but I don't telling her she can't add the RAM later and has to spring extra for it up front.

Rob Pegoraro: My question as well--either cram a second memory slot in (although I can see how that would be difficult, having inspected its motherboard), make 512 MB standard or cut the price to upgrade (the $325 fee to upgrade to 1 GB of memory is particularly exploitative).

_______________________

Anonymous: With OSX tiger around the corner is it worth it to wait? or is there any word on an upgrade program for recent purchases? I think apple could be playing with fire if they get all these switchers, then they are told for the new os they have to spend 100 bucks or more.

Rob Pegoraro: "Around the corner"? Not quite. Apple says "Tiger"--Mac OS X 10.4--will ship in the first half of this year, which to me means not until June, and possibly more like August.

_______________________

Rockville, Md.: Rob,

Which the better buy, the G4 Mac mini (miniMac) or the G5 iMac?

Bill

Rob Pegoraro: I was mulling this over with a colleague today and didn't have an easy answer. If you don't own a monitor, the price gap between Mac mini and iMac G5 shrinks a lot. The faster processor and upgradeable components in the iMac should also count for something. OTOH, if you're not going to be doing things like editing video (which gets a pretty big boost in performance from the G5 chip in the iMac) you might not ever notice the extra capability of the iMac.

_______________________

Vienna, Va.: Is there somewhere to get reliable information about HDTV OTA reception here in the D.C. area? I'm in Vienna, between 9 and 10 miles from all the local HDTV transmitters, according to www.antennaweb.org . I've got a Stealthtenna 3010 with an amplifier on the roof, about 20 feet off the ground.

Currently, unless the air is perfectly still and perfectly clear, Fox is the only channel that comes in consistently, and even in the best conditions, UPN and WB don't come in at all. Any weather or wind and CBS becomes unwatchable, and NBC and ABC aren't far behind.

I can't get a higher mount. Would a bigger antenna help? Or, like cell phone reception, am I just a victim of our area?

washingtonpost.com: Decoding Digital TV (August 29, 2004)

Rob Pegoraro: You may be just a victim. The writer who tried out DTV reception for us last fall has had great results using the old rooftop antenna that came with his house--and he lives in Clifton.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: My mother uses her computer (a 4 year old Windows machine) mainly for web surfing, email, instant messaging (through AOL Instant Messenger), and the occasional letter. She is a computer novice, who is unwilling to learn the finer points of using a computer. She's never used a Mac. Would a Mac Mini be good for her as a replacement for her ancient Windows machine?

Rob Pegoraro: I think so... especially if she's had issues with viruses or spyware in the past.

_______________________

Wheaton, Md.: From what you're saying about the Mac Mini and its ala carte add-ons, why wouldn't I just buy the eMac for $800? That's a slick, compact little unit. Seems like you're saying we'd have to pay $800 for the Mini once the upgrades and necessities are added.

Rob Pegoraro: First, the eMac is anything but compact--no 17-inch CRT is, especially when there's an entire computer built into it. (The eMac weighs over 50 lbs.)

Second, what upgrades are you talking about? Adding an Apple keyboard and a third-party mouse (say, Microsoft's way-cool Starck mouse) adds $40 or so, and then you have the functional equivalent of a stock eMac (which also has only 256 MB of memory) for $240 less--you can buy a 17-inch LCD with your savings, or get a 17-in. CRT and keep $100 in your pocket.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I have a couple of SIMMs of 256MB ram from an old Mac. Would I be able to use them in any Apple product (e.g., Mac Mini, iBook, etc.)?

Rob Pegoraro: Almost certainly not. Memory isn't standard across different lines of computers, especially those years apart. Try to unload it on eBay instead.

_______________________

Government Lawyer: My employer issued me a Gateway laptop with a port replicator, monitor, mouse, and one of those PS/2 keyboards you ranted about in today's newsletter. But the only way I can turn the computer on is by opening the laptop and pushing the power button. Then I close the laptop and use the nice big monitor. Is there such thing as an external power button that I could plug in, or maybe a USB keyboard with a power button?

Rob Pegoraro: No, not really. (Apple once included keyboards with a power button, but nowadays you can only take a Mac in and out of sleep mode with the keyboard, not boot it up.) It seems to me that the real issue here is that your laptop doesn't support starting up while closed, and if that's the case there's nothing to be done about it.

_______________________

Gaithersburg, Md.: Rob, I recently purchased a computer and paid extra to have the Windows XP Professional package added to it so that I could use all the windows programs (word, excel, powerpoint, etc.). Much to my chagrin, the computer didn't bring any of these programs and no discs to install them. Did I miss something? I thought the professional package had all these programs included, which is why I shelled out the extra cash for it.

Rob Pegoraro: Somebody steered you very, very wrong. XP Professional is just XP Home with support for such business-computing features as domain logons. It doesn't include any extra productivity software. What you wanted was Office 2003, the separate productivity suite that consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook--and which runs just fine on XP Home.

_______________________

Annapolis, Md.: For a computer for the kids--some browsing, games (generally not graphics-intensive), and general use--eMac or Mac Mini (we have the peripherals; I made the switch 2 1/2 years ago and haven't looked back)? I also anticipate a wireless home network, along with my iMac and a (yet-to-be-purchased) Powerbook.

Thanks...

Rob Pegoraro: Mac mini, I think. As I just mentioned in an earlier question, the eMac won't save you any money and will take up a lot more space. And you won't have to budget for a keyboard and mouse, making the mini a better buy yet.

It's good that you specified "not graphics-intensive" games. The graphics circuitry in the mini is fine, but not high-powered by any estimate. The demo of Unreal Tournament 2004 stuttered badly in the default settings.

_______________________

Washington, D.C. : Is there a list of local (metro DC) ISP's offering IMAP services for email? I'm a starpower customer and would like to put an IMAP server in my house so we can all get our respective emails (too many computers, too much email).

washingtonpost.com: 2004 ISP GUIDE (February 8, 2004)

Rob Pegoraro: Here ya go. FYI, we've usually run this survey at about this time in the year, but we're holding off while we figure out how to best cover this topic this year. I'll have more on this in my next newsletter.

_______________________

Jefferson City, Mo.: We are looking seriously at the mini-mac due to download frustrations with our 2 year old Dell. Can it easily handle the Nikon D70 digital camera downloads to CD & saves to CD's? I assume we would need the model with 80 gigabytes. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: I have yet to find a digital camera that won't work with iPhoto (Nikon's own photo software also runs in Mac OS X too). 40 or 80 GB? Depends on how many pictures you've taken, and what else you'd be doing with the computer. How big is your My Pictures folder now?

The mini I've been reviewing, on which I've loaded my entire music collection but only a gigabyte of photos, has about 23 gigs free on its 40-gig hard drive, if that helps.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: Can I use a wireless USB connecter instead of the Airport card for wireless access on the Mac Mini?

Thanks - KJ

Rob Pegoraro: I don't see why not, but I haven't tried this myself. I'll give it a shot at home today or tomorrow--I happen to have a spare USB WiFi adapter lying around.

_______________________

Sterling, Va.: One other build-to-order option you can get on the Mac Mini is the Bluetooth option. Get that and a bluetooth keyboard & mouse, and you have two open USB ports.

Outside of that, I would recommend getting an Apple keyboard & plugging a USB mouse into its built-in hub, as you mentioned.

Rob Pegoraro: Ordering up Bluetooth and that wireless keyboard and mouse adds at least $125--more if you don't get WiFi as well--and that seems a bit much just to free up USB ports. Get Bluetooth if you want to pair your phone or handheld organizer with your computer, not just for a keyboard and mouse.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: How is it that, well besides Sony maybe, that PC makers have not caught on to good design principals like Apple?

Obvious question, if it were possible to shove a whole computer into a 6x6x4 inch box, why hadn't anyone else done it?

Will Dell or Gateway try and follow suit?

Rob Pegoraro: I wonder about this as well. Dell and Gateway have, in the past, tried to compete with Apple--Dell had its short-lived WebPC, and Gateway still sells its Profile line. But neither of those attempts have really caught fire. It may be because they're kinda ugly, but also because they're not priced at any discount compared to their generic tower-case desktops.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Compared to the Mac Mini 1.42GHz with a 20" monitor, the iMac is only about $100 more for a faster and bigger G5 HD and the G4 Mac Mini isn't really upgradeable either.

Rob Pegoraro: I REALLY doubt that there's any overlap between the people who'd consider a Mac mini and those who would buy Apple's $1,000 20-inch LCD.

_______________________

AVG/Zone Alert ConflictS: Rob -- I have Zone Alert and the latest free AVG (v7) on my XP machine and Win2k machine, both of which are connected to a router in my house.

The XP box can't connect to AVG's (free.grisoft.com) internet site for automatic downloads (give me a timeout message -- during the process, the ZA 'meter' never goes on), while the Win2k machine can. I am getting to the internet from the XP box every other way... browser, email, etc.

Seems like a ZA problem... any thoughts on a remedy?

Rob Pegoraro: Add an exception for AVG in ZoneAlarm's settings? (If anybody more experienced in ZA could set me straight, that'd be appreciated.)

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: We've heard of all the great things about the mini. What are the top 5 negative points about it?

Rob Pegoraro: Sure:

1) Not enough memory in standard configuration.

2) Only 2 USB ports

3) Pricing to add memory exceeds what other manufacturers charge

4) Most PC switchers will wind up having to buy Apple's keyboard anyway

5) Upgrades difficult (memory) or well-nigh-impossible (everything else) unless you pay Apple or an authorized service provider to do them.

_______________________

Rob Pegoraro: We've got more questions than time, but I'll stick around a little later to try to answer as many as I can.

_______________________

Boca Raton, Fla.: What are advantages and disadvantages of CD-RW? I work with files that are often changed by me; however, I do want to save certain files permanently?

Bob S

Rob Pegoraro: Use CD-RW for the files that do change often, then make your archival/backup copies on CD-R.

_______________________

Middletown, Ct.: Hey Rob -

I love your column and chats. Thanks for being so informed.

No real question here, but more of a statement. You repeatedly assert (and rightfully so) that Apple is woefully deficient in supplying adequate memory for their computers. However, authorized sellers, such as MacMall or Mac Connection, will bump up the memory for free on most of Apple's line, plus give away printers and such. For the Mac Mini, no free memory bundle, but a free USB keyboard and mouse can be had, leaving money for the memory upgrade. There are also iPod deals.

So I am testifying that there are excellent alternatives with suitable bundled packages geared to sufficiently build your Mac of choice.

Thanks Rob.

Greg

Rob Pegoraro: No problem...

_______________________

Treo Envy in D.C.: Yikes, posting late but hope you can answer this!!

I love the Treo 650, but I love Verizon more. I don't want to switch to Sprint or Cingular. Verizon only offers the Treo 600 - is it worth it? Help me with the trade offs.

Rob Pegoraro: The Treo 600 is very nice, but the 650's a lot better--there's so much more you can do with its sharper screen. (No, I still know nothing about when/if Verizon will offer the 650.)

_______________________

Annapolis, Md.: What's a good USB PC mouse to use with the Mac. I have an old Logitech with a PS2 connector that I like, but the new Logitechs seem to have very soft switches that I don't particularly like. Are you aware of any issues with particular mice used with the Mini? Thanks, George

Rob Pegoraro: No--every single USB rodent I tried worked with it.

_______________________

Silver Spring, Md.: I use both Mac and PC and consider myself OS agnostic. In yesterday's Fast Forward you end with: "That ought to be enough to make buyers give Apple a second look. Given the woeful state of Windows computing, they should.

Of which woeful state of Windows computing are you speaking?

Rob Pegoraro: Where do I start? The viruses, the worms, the spyware, the lousy integrated Internet software, the aging operating system, the general difficulty of fixing Windows problems... you want me to keep going with this?

_______________________

Webster, N.Y.: Rob:

I've read people are using the Mac mini for a device like TiVo. How do they do that? Can it be done wirelessly?

The mac mini sounds like it's just a cheap way to get out of using Windows, what with the ability to get a monitor, mouse and keyboard for cheap.

If you were Steve Jobs, what do you think would add to the Mac mini in terms of advancing it to the next level, not in terms of adding RAM or more hard drive space but in a media server.

Do you see Apple coming out with a portable media player (video)? They rule the audio world, so why not video!?!

Rob Pegoraro: I don't--Apple has said many times that it doesn't think people actually want to watch video on the go.

_______________________

D.C.: How is the mini for once or twice a week use of photoshop and illustrator? Or should I go for the higher-end machine?

Rob Pegoraro: You're asking the wrong guy--I don't test out programs that cost more than the computer on which they're run. I suspect, though, that a G5 would be necessary if you're using a Mac to make a living doing graphic design.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I purchased an IMac G4 flat panel computer when they came out three years ago. It has been trouble-free. Now, my Applecare warranty is about to expire and I wonder how long I can realistically expect the computer to last. After three years, it still has enough speed, RAM and hard drive space for my needs. Can I expect to make it another three years?

Rob Pegoraro: The iMac I have at home is almost that old, and I certainly hope it will last a while longer! I'd think, though, that you should be fine for several more years, at least in terms of avoiding mechanical issues.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I have a dell pc in a 3rd floor home office and am currently looking for a laptop for my kitchen (ground floor). If I install a wireless network, could I go with an apple powerbook or do I need to stick with a pc-based laptop?

Rob Pegoraro: A Mac can join a PC-centric WiFi network and vice versa--there's no bar either way.

_______________________

Rockville, Md.: Since you have had the chance to play with it, what ways would you use it if you owned one? Would you take it places where you'd otherwise have e-mailed your documents?

Rob Pegoraro: I wouldn't take a Mac mini on the road--it's light, but not when you factor in a keyboard, mouse and even a small LCD. But I do find myself kinda intrigued when I read about people putting Mac minis in their living rooms or kitchens. (If you happen to own an HDTV that, like most, has a DVI input, you can plug the Mac mini into that.)

_______________________

Santa Fe, NM: Hi I am wondering if you voids the Mac Mini's warranty to upgrade the ram/hard drive my self? I have heard both that it does and doesn't. Thanks

Rob Pegoraro: What I've been told is that you only void the warranty if you break stuff; actually opening the case is not against the rules, per se. It's just really hard; there's a reason why the manual says there are "no user-servicable parts" inside.

_______________________

Burke, Va.: I like the new mini a lot, but there are 2 features that I really want in my next Mac: A DVD burner (movies of new kid of course!) and a G5.

When do you think Apple will update the Mini with these features?

Rob Pegoraro: A DVD burner is already an option. But a G5? Not going to happen until it makes its way into a laptop, which would mean Apple has figured out how to keep it from overheating in the same cramped confines as the mini.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: Including monitor, keyboard, and whatever else, what was your as-tested price?

Rob Pegoraro: I reviewed the $499 entry-level configuration, without any upgrades. The keyboard, mice and monitors I tried were all already on hand (one convenience of working in a building with a large quantity of PC hardware lying around), so the as-tested price really was $499.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Just a comment: In the Mac vs Windows cost debate, no one ever seems to factor in the number of hours or dollars they spend taking care of their Windows machines. My Macs don't cost me extra money or much time til they need replacing.

Rob Pegoraro: This is what computing professionals call "TCO" - "total cost of operation." It's a hard figure to calculate, but you have to consider it.

_______________________

Laurel, Md.: My housemate is a MacHead and I've always used Windows. So he's got me into iTunes on his extra iMac. (I haven't bought the iPod yet, but he's still working it.) Problem: my August '99-purchased Gateway desktop has Windows 98. I use it for email, some scanning, some writing, etc. I found out yesterday trying to prepare for my free Pepsi songs that I need at least Windows 2000. What are my low-cost options?

Rob Pegoraro: Put a copy of Windows 2000 or XP on it, most likely with some extra memory. Windows 98 is--not to be too unkind--obsolete; Microsoft began leaving it out of its upgrades (for instance, Windows Media Player) some time ago.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Back in May I bought an Ipod for me and an Ipod mini for my son. Mine works great, but his has trouble holding a charge for more than 24 hours. The people at the genius desk said that dropping the mini caused the disk drive to spin continuously, thus draining the battery sooner than normal. They offered to fix the problem for more than the cost of a new mini. Is this a common problem? Are others finding their mini's are unable to hold a charge after 6-10 months?

Rob Pegoraro: No, that's not normal. Did you actually drop the mini, or did they conclude this from examining yours?

_______________________

Jefferson City, Missouri: In response to your questions about picture file size on the Dell computer we are using:
Not sure how much is in the picture file. My husband is a writer/photographer and does quite a bit of freelance. He keeps most picture files on CDs, not on the dell computer. He shoots in RAW files, uses Photoshop primarily for cropping.

I have a very old powermac7200 that I use for home budgeting (and am hoping the keyboard/monitor will work with the mini-mac). But I would like to have a computer that is fast enough to use E5Quilts for quilt design.
I am thinking having the 512 mgb w/80 gig of memory. Should that be enough for our purposes?

Rob Pegoraro: OK, RAW (an uncompressed image format) takes up a lot of space. So, yeah, 40 GB won't be enough. Get 80, and 512 megs of memory would be a good idea. If you're going to use Photoshop, a gig wouldn't be a bad idea.

(Bear in mind that we're talking about a camera that sells for 2x the price of a Mac mini... thesearen'tt typical requirements for digital-camera usage.)

_______________________

Centreville, VA: There's a lot of grousing about the scarcity of USB ports on the Mac Mini and I agree. However, a cheap solution to free up a port and also make use of the PS2 mouse and keyboard most Windows switchers usually have is to buy a PS2-to-USB dual adapter for about $7. With it, you can plug in both mouse and keyboard to one USB port.

Rob Pegoraro: Yes (although I couldn't find any for under $10). You can find these things in CompUSA, Amazon and other electronics stores... but not in Apple's own stores. Seems like an oversight there.

_______________________

Laurel, Md.: You keep referring to Windows machines with spyware problems & not Mac machines - why is this?

trying to learn more about Macs....

Rob Pegoraro: 'Cause there isn't any Mac spyware. Or viruses. (Such a thing *could* exist, but its authors would have to be pretty savvy programmers for their creation to get far in Mac OS X.)

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Rob, I just replaced my PC with an iMac and I love it. The thing works like a charm and best of all it looks cool. One thing I find, though, is that it is a little bit loud - maybe the fan or the hard drive. Have you heard this complaint from any iMac users?

Rob Pegoraro: The fan can make a little bit of noise when you get the G5 processor working harder. What I noticed most about the iMac's noise, however, was just *how* the fan kept speeding up and slowing down. It was like listening to the engine in a stick-shift car going around corners and up and down hills.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Most of the mini reviews I've seen (including yours) emphasize the hardware setup without really saying much about the software that comes with it. But the software is a major part of the deal. The iLife suite, not to mention the functionality that comes with OS X (easy creation of PDF files from any application, for example) is worth more than a sentence, no?

Rob Pegoraro: iLife is worth a whole extra column. But not this week :)

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: Yes, the Mac Mini's USB ports and standard config are limiting. Of course Apple is trying to make money on these, while getting in under the $500 price point. Rob, if you couldimprovee one thing on the Mac Mini what would it be?

Rob Pegoraro: Add a third USB port.

_______________________

Oakton, Va.: Just a general question about Apple... why the fascination by the tech community? I mean, it really is just a niche player in the computer and consumer electronics market... does the company deserve all the attention it gets?

Rob Pegoraro: Second to last question (I still have my day job to attend do!). People are fascinated by Apple because it isn't content to make cheaper or merely better-looking versions of what everybody else does. It is trying--not always with success--to innovate, and that's something that has grown tragically rare in this business.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Ok Rob - Most important question of the day - who do you got in the Superbowl?

Rob Pegoraro: And here's the last question :)

I grew up in New Jersey, and the Eagles are such an underdog, so I've gotta root for Philly... even if the Pats are probably going to walk over them.

_______________________


© 2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive
Viewpoint: Paid Programming

Sponsored Discussion Archive
This forum offers sponsors a platform to discuss issues, new products, company information and other topics.

Read the Transcripts
Viewpoint: Paid Programming