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Jewish World Review
Feb. 3, 2006
/ 5 Shevat, 5766
Intel chip, software make new Mac shine
Barely three months after the last iMac surprise - a built-in video camera
and microphone to make communication easier - Apple Computer three weeks
ago debuted its latest accomplishment: an iMac with an Intel Corp.
processor. This follows, by about six months, Apple's announcement of a
move to the Intel platform, a switch that evoked gasps from many, not
least Mac loyalists.
I've had the new-new iMac online for about a week, and it's a stunningly
fast performer. Intel's processors give the Mac far more horsepower than
equivalent, or near-equivalent PowerPC processors. My rough
estimates, based on real-world scenarios, suggest things can move almost
twice as fast on the new machine as they do on the older models.
Best of all, the price is unchanged: $1,699 will buy you the 20-inch
display-sized iMac with a 250 Gbyte hard drive, a "SuperDrive" that'll
read and write CD- and DVD-ROM discs, and both WiFi and Bluetooth radios
built in, as well as 512 Mbytes of RAM and a separate 128 Mbytes of video
RAM. I would strongly suggest upgrading the main RAM to 1 Gbyte for an
extra $100, however.
The new iMac is a lovely machine I'd like to keep on my desk permanently.
Friends and colleagues who saw the iMac sighed over it, as they did over
its predecessor. It's a stylish computer, compact and capable, one that
not only looks very good on a desk, but also delivers tremendous
Key to that performance is the fantastic job Apple has done in
accomplishing what some would have considered nearly impossible:
translating the operating system, OS X from the PowerPC world to
that of Intel processors. Thanks to the Unix core of OS X, as well as
plenty of advance work by Apple, where an Intel-friendly version of OS X
had long been rumored to exist, this move was far less traumatic than it
might have otherwise been.
The "new" OS X boots up exactly the same as the "old" OS X, except faster.
A few PowerPC-specific programs, among them Microsoft's VirtualPC
Windows emulator, won't run on the new chip. Nor is it yet possible to
have a "dual boot" Intel-based iMac that runs both OS X and the
Intel-based Microsoft Windows. There are some engineering issues, which
may be fixed when Microsoft's next Windows release, code-named Vista,
I found that just about everything on my "old" Mac ran on the Intel-based
iMac: the only thing "lost" in translation were the mouse drivers for a
Microsoft Wireless IntelliMouse , but Microsoft promises new drivers
soon. The wireless mouse still performed the basic mouse functions,
though; it was some of the "extra" features that were lacking.
Other programs, from the every-day Microsoft Word to the specialized
Accordance program for students of the Bible and related texts, performed
flawlessly. That's due to something called "Rosetta," which translates
instructions between "old" programs and the "new" OS X and Intel
processor. I don't know how it all works, and am not sure I could explain
it any more succinctly than to call it digital alchemy. Rosetta turns old,
if not leaden, Mac applications into new Mac gold.
I've searched my brain - and nearly 25-year store of computer-using
memories - to find anything that comes close to this achievement: moving
an entire computing platform from one processor to a totally different
one, while not missing a beat. Frankly, I can't find another example.
Apple has done something incredible here, and while some may be tempted to
wait and see if so-far-undiscovered "bugs" appear, the rest of us may well
be happy to dive in and reap the advantages of a faster, sleeker computing
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2006, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com