Washington Apple Pi

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iMac, Generation 2, It's Here!

© Pat Fauquet

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Back in early January I made my annual trek to San Francisco for MacWorld. I had the whole week planned and Apple Computer did their best to keep my final schedule in total turmoil. MacWorld was to begin on Tuesday, and I was to attend User Group University on Monday. Then Apple announced that the keynote address would take place on Monday morning, and the rest of the events for the week would flow around it.

I got up bright and early Monday morning and was in line before 7 AM for a keynote that would begin at 9. Standing in line, we all speculated on what could have caused the entire MacWorld schedule to be changed so late. We filed into the keynote hall after 9 AM in less than orderly fashion, jockeyed for the "best" seat and then waited even longer for the show to begin.

There was lots of hype about OS X and how it is doing in the marketplace. There was the introduction of iPhoto, and finally we got to the hardware announcements. I bought a white iBook in the Spring, so speed bumps and a new iBook with a larger screen did not get me excited. But the new toy on the block, the generation two iMac was very exciting. A small white dome with a silver arm connecting it to a "floating" screen -- that was exciting. Upon leaving the keynote, each attendee was give a copy of the just released Newsweek magazine, and there on the cover was Steve Jobs, holding the new iMac. Waiting until Tuesday would have meant no surprises for the MacWorld keynote.

I had left for MacWorld telling my husband that we would be getting the new Apple tower, and then there really was no new tower. I was hoping for a G5. I needed something with a SuperDrive, and I wanted a flat panel display. The new iMac filled several of those needs and left money in my savings account for another computer in a year or so. When I got home I dropped by the Apple Store a put my name on the list of people to be notified when the new iMac arrived in the store. I got my call last week, and picked up our new computer.

The first thing that struck me is how light the box is. This is a very light machine, considering its brothers. Opening the box is yet another great experience. The foam is molded to cradle the screen, there are holes for the speakers, and the accessories are carefully packed in an upper box. The only way to get it out of the box is to pull up on the silver arm--and Steve Jobs, at the keynote, noted it was meant to be picked up by the arm, so we did it.

Pat and iMac Jr.

Apple is using a new power cord in this machine. The end that fits into the computer is much smaller than a normal power cord and looks like three rings stacked together. I am not certain I could find a replacement cable at Radio Shack. The keyboard and mouse are white with clear plastic. The retain the feel of the earlier no button mouse and new keyboard. Although I had heard a complaint or two about a white keyboard, I think I like it better than the black ones, especially in low light situations. The last key in the top row of the number pad ejects the CD. In is separate from the function keys, unlike the new iBook keyboards. There are little caps that attach to the cables to protect the USB ends if you are transporting the mouse and keyboard. They are another nice little Apple touch.

The iMac comes with quite a stack of CDs. There are six that are used to restore the computer, an applications CD, a OS 9 CD, an OS X CD, the World Book CD , the iPhoto CD, two blank CD and a blank DVD. There us a very thin manual that covers just the basics, a setup guide, and the usual license pamphlet. There is also a small gray cloth with no instructions as to its use.

Since my primary reason for buying this machine is to make iMovies and to burn my own DVDs, the first thing I did was a reformat of the hard drive. I used the OS 9 CD and partitioned its 60 GB hard drive into 8 volumes. Although it is best to capture video on a separate hard drive, the iMac has only one hard drive, and although I own a 40 GB external FireWire drive, I want to be able to capture video without any extra equipment occasionally. I also like to be able to build CDs on separate volumes, so I made three partitions that are 658 MB. After formatting, those drives are 649.7 MB, and that is as closed to the magical 650 MB of a blank CD as I have been able to get. I have not done enough with the SuperDrive yet to know if having 4,7 GB partitions is necessary, but I made three partitions at that size anyway. That left me with two partitions that are about 20 GB each. The beauty of separate partitions is that they are much easier to run Norton Speed Disk on, and the last step I take before burning a CD is to defragment my drive so that files "play" as quickly as possible.

The six restore CDs can be used to bring the iMac back to its pristine, from the factory state. While the drive is reformatted at the beginning of the process and all data is erased, it respects the partitions you have set up and they are intact (though empty) at the end of using the restore CDs. In the past Macintoshes shipped with CDs for iMovie and iDVD, but piracy is a real issue, so Apple is now bundling those programs in the restore CDs. A quick trip to ebay will make it clear why this policy is necessary.

Since the new iMac will become the primary family computer, and since I needed to move the family's primary files over from our beige G3 tower, I put the iMac on our family network and started the process. It performed this task very well. Another way to perform this task would be to use the target mode. To use it, you must have FireWire on both computers. I had added a FireWire USB card to my Beige G3 tower several years ago. Turn off one of the computers. Attach a 6 pin FireWire cable to both computers. As you start up the computer you turned off, hold down the T key on the keyboard. The hard drives and any files you have on the desktop of that computer will appear on the other other computer's desktop. Now you can move your files at FireWire speeds.

I plan to keep this computer in OS X most of the time, so I turned on the multiple users feature and set up user accounts for all our children (even the ones who only visit occasionally). I also set up an account for the grandchildren since their games tend to require 256 colors and some of the programs are not good at returning the computer to its former state at the end of the game. I used each person's name as their password so I do not need to remember all those passwords. Then I started up as each individual user and moved their documents to their own folders.

Finally I am at the point where I can "play" with my new computer. However, it has not happened yet. Work has beckoned and I have been teaching classes and fixing computers, so perhaps next weekend, I will get the chance to really put this little beauty through its paces. For now, I can say it is fast, stable and the screen is beautiful. The DVD player works and it will burn a CD. It is more than I expected so, the first thing next weekend is to move the beige G3 to its new home in my office and to put the iMac in the corner of our family room for everyone to use and enjoy. I can't wait to show it off to my PC loving son-in-law.

Pat Fauquet teaches many of the classes in the WAP tutorial series.