This is a bye week for my Web chats, so you can be productive this
afternoon (or not), and I can waste my time reading random blogs
instead of typing away like a madman for an hour and a half.
Sound good? I thought so too.
My question of the week is for readers in
the Washington area; your answers can help us do a better job with
this fall's guide to wireless phone service. The question is simple:
Where does your phone often lose service? Tell me the location (if
it's in a high-traffic area where you wouldn't expect to find a dead
zone, so much the better) and your carrier. Send your tips to email@example.com; the wireless plan
guide will run in a few weeks.
iMac G5 Processor Settings
I have a few Mac-specific follow-ups this week -- one on a
recent review, one on a rather old one. Among all the e-mail I
received in response to my review of the iMac G5 two weeks ago,
one of the first to catch my eye was one asking if I had adjusted
the processor-speed settings on the computer to switch them to
the "Highest" performance option.
Of course, I had not. I hardly ever change the default settings
on something I review, since few people will do the same in their
own day-to-day use. Plus, I figured, why would this setting --
accessible by opening the Energy Saver system-preferences
window, then clicking its "Options" button -- make any difference
in performance? The normal setting, "Automatic," would ensure
that a task that needed more processing power would get it, right?
Wrong. As the Mac-news site Macintouch reported this
week, changing that setting can offer a dramatic boost in
performance -- on the order of 40 percent in its benchmark tests.
Now, benchmark tests being what they are, that may not add up to
much in everyday use. Most computer processors, PC or Mac,
spend the vast bulk of their lives barely idling; browsing the Web,
reading e-mail and playing MP3s don't exactly quicken the pulse of
a Pentium or a PowerPC.
But if you plan on editing large JPEG files or making your own
movies, the extra speed available with this option will make a big
difference. The one tradeoff of selecting "Highest" processor
performance is more noise from the fan, which can never enter its
quietest modes. Even then, though, it's no more annoying than any
PC desktop, and less annoying than a good lot of them (say, the
IBM desktop in front of me).
I suspect that Apple will stop the "Automatic" setting from
slowing things down so much in a second iteration of iMac G5
models or, maybe even sooner, in a software or hardware tweak.
But in the meantime, this trick might save iMac users a lot of
waiting time when they work on their next production in iMovie.
.Mac Boosts E-mail Storage
My second Apple note of this week: The company has finally
discovered there's such a thing as Gmail and Yahoo Mail! Make
that, it's finally noticed that its users can get 100 megabytes or
more of Web-mail storage for free, while its $100/year .Mac
service -- for all its other benefits -- had offered a scant 15
megabytes of online mail storage.
Last week, just in time for the first .Mac subscribers to start
paying their annual renewals, Apple upped the .Mac mail quota to a
potential maximum of 250 megabytes. This storage is normally
split 50/50, with half reserved for .Mac messages and the other
half going towards a user's iDisk online file-storage space, but you
can adjust it either way.
Apple also added spell-checking to the .Mac Web-mail
interface, as well as an option allowing users to set up mail aliases
to hand out to people you might not trust with your real account
(for instance, you could create a "firstname.lastname@example.org"
address and use that when you buy things online). All of these
changes make .Mac look like a much better deal than it did a few
weeks ago, when it was in danger of becoming as uncompetitive as
it was when Apple first began charging for the
Lastly, I will pass along two reader recommendations for RSS
(Really Simple Syndication) newsreader programs, suggestions I got
after asking if anybody could name a decent RSS client for
Windows. Both are free, open-source downloads; both seem fairly
cleanly designed, and both... well, I haven't spent enough time with
either to make up my mind on which one I like better.
The first program is called FeedReader (Win 95 or newer); the
other is named RSSOwl (Win 98 or newer, Mac OS X,
Linux, Solaris). I'll try to get some more use out of them, and you
may yet see one of them show up on our reviews page in the
Shameless self-promotion: If you're interested in setting up an
RSS feed of my column, check out the RSS button on the left side
(under the ad) of the current Fast Forward
review of the new BlackBerry, or check out washingtonpost.com's RSS
-- Rob Pegoraro (email@example.com)