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Before I say I word, I should tell you that I am really a PC person. I have always found Macs scary. I am comfortable with Windows and can get around quite happily, even messing about with the registry if necessary. So, here I am the proud owner of an iBook!
I teach in a prestigious boarding school. Our Head of IT hates Windows with a violent passion. He came a year ago on a mission to convert the entire premises to a Mac environment. He has almost succeeded, too! All the IT labs for teaching are equipped with iMacs and the new eMacs. Only the admin departments have escaped and managed to retain their PC's! For staff use in the staff room there are four computers, two decrepit PC's and two swanky new flat screen iMacs.
Some of our teachers, like me, are very pro pc, and resented being forced to use Macs. There was the obvious problem of transferring work between home and school. Eventually, the Bursar decided that all staff should have laptops. We were told that we could have a pc laptop, but that school would offer no back up if there were problems. If we chose a Mac, should anything go wrong, school would see to the repair. We have to contribute towards the cost of the laptop, but school pays for most of it and the rest comes directly from our salary in monthly instalments. It is a really generous deal and I am very pleased to have benefited by it.
I returned to school in September to be told my new iBook was ready for me to collect from the IT lab. I was very surprised, as they are only being issued a few per term, and I thought my seniority (or lack of it) was such that I would have to wait another 6 months. No! I was a priority case, so I was really excited. Unfortunately, when I asked if I could have one I was so sure that I would have to wait until after Christmas that I had not ordered the specific spec that I wanted, so I missed out on the combi-drive with the CD-writer and DVD drive. What a pity, but never mind!
I have the basic iBook and it is very good indeed.I am so proud of it and it goes with me almost everywhere!
It is ice white polycarbonate plastic over a magnesium frame. This makes it very durable and extremely light. The hard drive is encased in rubber, so that if you drop it (and clumsy here dropped hers within a week of having it) it comes to no harm. I can vouch for that! No damage was done to mine in the research of dropping laptops onto wooden floors!
It is such a smart looking machine. It weighs 2.2kg and is just over an inch thick. Mine has a 12-inch screen, although the top of the range model sports a 14-inch screen. It looks quite small, although the viewable area is more than adequate, even on the smaller one, and it tucks quite easily into a shoulder bag or rucksack.
The screen is excellent and the images razor sharp! The resolution is 1024 x 768, and it sports an ATI Mobility Radeon graphics accelerator with AGP2X for superb quality 3D graphics. The screen is flat and TFT-XGA display.
The keyboard is rubber, light and easy to use, with no clattering!
My iBook is the G3 600 CD 12" screen. This retails at about £969.02 (this is the educational price, it might be a bit more in the shops)
It comes with a 20 Gb hard drive and 128 Mb RAM as standard. Mine was expanded to 256 Mb RAM, as we are expected to use the school airport network, which is memory hungry. You can, in fact, upgrade the memory as far as 640Mb if you think you will need it! As standard, you get an Ethernet Network connection (great for connecting to a cable modem) and a fire wire port for digital video. There are two USB ports and a video output to connect to a projector- really useful if you use PowerPoint. It has an internal 56k modem and an excellent sound card, although to appreciate it you need to hook up to external speakers. This iBook is a step up from the previous model, in that it has two speakers, but the quality of the inbuilt speakers is a little tinny. Well, it is only a laptop! There are a range of very nice external speakers if music and sound quality is important to you. They start at about £50 and the sound quality is superb.
The laptop comes with a lithium-ion battery, which lasts for about six hours when fully charged. I have also been impressed with the speed of a re-charge, which seems to take about an hour and a half. There are some indicator lights on the underside of the machine to give you an idea of the battery life. There is also a precise percentage indicator on the screen itself.If required you can buy a spare battery for about £70. I haven't bothered.
There are loads of inbuilt features. For such a tiny machine, it certainly packs a punch! Other than the things I have already mentioned there is an optional Airport, which goes underneath the keyboard. It is for wireless networking and Internet access. I can only use mine at school as I don’t have an airport base station at home, but my father knows that this is on my Christmas wish list! The airport costs £90.04.
There is a built in microphone so that you can input data verbally using Via Voice, or something similar, or you can record sound.
On the side of the machine is the optical CD drive. It will play CDRoms or audio CD’s. On the higher spec machines you can burn your own CD’s and watch DVD’s. That is what I forgot to upgrade to, to my annoyance! There is also a socket for headphones, which I find handy sometimes.
The iBook comes with a choice of two operating systems. There is the new OS X, which is a Unix based operating system, or OS9 Classic. You can run the two simultaneously, and I do, as not all applications will yet run on OS X. AOL will only run on OS9 although they are beta testing a new version especially for OS X as we speak. It only takes a few seconds to swop to the alternative platform, so it isn’t really a problem.
The only thing I would say, is that the computer takes quite a long time to boot up, as they are both big applications.
This is not a review of the Mac operating systems, so I will not go into great detail. OS X is superb. One of my gripes about Macs is that you have to drag and drop everything, and there is no right click on the mouse. Not any more! On OS X, if you connect a mouse you can have a right click function. I still find Windows easier, and I run XP on my main computer, but I must say this little laptop is winning me round.
At the bottom of the screen is a dock where you will find the application icons. As you hover over the required icon it pops up and is magnified. It all looks very attractive. It does have a use, and if you press a folder icon it will reveal to you the contents of that folder.
The iBook comes packed with software. As you would expect there is Internet Explorer and Netscape for accessing the Internet. You are entitled to an e-mail address at Mac unlimited, and this signs you up for the iTools package. ITools is integrated into OS X; it allows you to store photographs, video film and documents remotely on the server. You can then access your files from another Mac or, indeed, a PC. There is a space to design your own website and you can even send e-cards from here. There is a public folder component, so that if you want to share files such as photographs with other people, they can access them from their own computer by going into the public shared file.
Appleworks comes as standard. It is a powerful word processing package, which also does spreadsheets, drawing and painting, databases and presentations. It is very easy to use and gives very professional looking results to your documents and brochures etc.I also paid extra to have Microsoft Office on mine, but to be honest Appleworks was more than ample. It was just that I am more familiar with Office. Funnily enough, now I have got used to it I tend to use Appleworks more now!
There is an inbuilt MP3 player called iTunes. This enables you to build up your own collection of music by downloading from the Internet or copying from audio CD's if you have a re-writer. You can listen to audio CD's or the radio through the inbuilt radio tuner via the net! If you have an iPod you can connect it to the fire wire port and your music will be automatically downloaded from your laptop to the iPod. An iPod is a portable and hugely powerful MP3 player. You can save up to 20GB worth of songs. That’s a lot of music, folks!
Digital photography is a breeze with iPhoto; this is an excellent and easy way to organize your digital photos. If you have a USB camera just hook it up to the iBook and away you go! You can edit your photos, and create albums or on screen slide shows. I have tried this and the quality is excellent!
As a follow on from iPhoto, there is iMovie where, if you have a digital camcorder you can have great fun making movies. Sadly, my camcorder is analogue so I haven’t tried this myself. I have seen colleagues’ efforts at school, however and they are very impressive indeed.
The iBook also has it’s own search engine “Sherlock”. It is super, but old habits die hard and I still tend to use Google!
Last but not least is a superb multi media encyclopaedia “World Book” which is very interesting.
So, are there any drawbacks to this natty little laptop? Well yes. It gets very hot on your legs if you sit there with it too long! Also, there is no floppy disk drive. Macs no longer use them. I am going to get an external one, as my only way of transferring files if I am away from the network is to email them to myself to store and print on the pc! I think that the CD re-writer should come as standard if there is no floppy disk.
There are three iBooks to choose from. They all come with everything I have described as a minimum specification. You can also have 700 mhz processor speed and a 30 GB hard drive.
The top of the range rolls in at £1551.02. It is very fast and gives you 30GB, 256Mb RAM, a combined CD Rom/CD writer and DVD Rom drive with a 14 inch screen. This one is probably for the real connoisseur.
The middle of the range is the same speed, but only has a 12 inch screen, a 20Gb hard drive and 128Mb RAM. It still has the same combi drive as the top model. The cost of this one is £1260.02
As you see, there is a fair amount of choice. I have grown to really enjoy mine. I am a bit frustrated by the limited software available for Macs, but as this a secondary computer it isn’t that much of a problem.I have downloaded some rather good word games from the net, which are rather addictive. I often find my daughters have " borrowed" my laptop to play them. I do not think I would replace my PC with a Mac, though. It easy to use, as I was told it would be, you just have to forget everything you know about PC’s or you get completely confused.
The after care is excellent and you can purchase a 3 year Applecare warranty which school insisted we have. The cost is £211.49. This gives you priority support if anything goes wrong. Apple provide you with Hardware diagnostic facilities and if that does not work they will come and collect your machine and return it to you within two to three days. Pretty impressive!
I love my little laptop and would definitely not exchange it for a PC laptop. Once I have saved up and installed virtual PC my happiness will be complete!