July 10

The Mac Wish List [continued]

Configurability. I want options. I love the "good, better, best" marketing model. It helps consumers make easier decisions when it comes to a purchase. Three models, three levels of performance. It works. Yet a goodly percentage of Mac users could benefit from configurability. A powerful CPU is great, but it wouldn't hurt Apple to offer its customers some application-specific enhancements, all under the umbrella of the good, better, best model. Here are some thoughts:

  • Video cards. I don't like the idea of having to throw away my AGP video card to add a new one. And I certainly don't like the idea of spending a lot of money on a new video card just to be bottlenecked by PCI. Let's have a choice of cards at the time of purchase: ATI. 3dfx, Appian, whatever. They're all in the same price range, so I'm not sure what the problem is.
  • Chips. How about some options for fine tuning your G4 for your specific needs? Rendering on a CPU is a poor option, even in applications tuned for the Velocity engine. We don't necessarily need a billion processors to handle a task, but a few special chips to take some of the burden off the CPU would be nice. One day CPUs will be powerful enough to handle anything in real time, but for now they need a little help. Third-party options are available, but expensive because they address the needs of super-high-end users exclusively.
  • Expandability. I don't need a built-in 56K modem, and I don't need AirPort connectivity. How about a couple more PCI slots instead? The slots couldn't cost Apple any more in manufacturing than the modem and wireless port. Granted, for some users, five or six PCI slots still wouldn't be enough. That's why Digidesign, for example, can sell 13-port expansion chassis. But for too many users, three PCI slots is just one or two slots too few.

Keyboard and mouse. I'm going to have to be blunt here. The keyboard and mouse that ships with Mac systems are freakishly inferior to virtually anything else on the market. The guy who designed the keyboard should be drawn and quartered. It's tiny, unresponsive and prone to skip keystrokes. And the black keys make it difficult to see letters in all but the most optimal lighting situations. The mouse, too, is silly. I know all about the buttonless mouse that Apple's supposedly developing, but, in the meantime, how about contracting out with MacAlly to include a two-button mouse?

Stability. I know OS X is supposed to address all of the Mac's stability woes, but we need something in the meantime to help us out. OS 9.0.4 is probably Apple's most stable OS since 6.0.7, but it still leaves something to be desired. I'm surrounded by PC users here at work. They're all doing the same things I'm doing. Yet I crash about three times as often as they do. And if you're working in page layout programs, the problem's even more severe.

Open Transport configurability. Mac systems have gotten much faster network speeds of late, but I want the same TCP/IP configurability PC users have. I've seen people on Windows install a 2 KB file on their systems and double their cable modem and DSL speeds.

I'm going to end here and invite you to participate. I'm sure each of you has something to add to this list, so let's take the discussion over to the Creative Mac User Forum. We'll collect user suggestions and see what comes of it. See you there!


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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, DCC Designer, DCC Workstation, Digital DTP, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Hollywood Industry, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.

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