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Just when you thought it would never happen, Apple quietly breaks with tradition and ships... the multi-button Mighty Mouse. Also in this issue, Adam shares his experience navigating Boston's streets with the Magellan RoadMate 700, a GPS device that got him there and back again with a few surprises. Jeff Carlson finds a great deal on a 20-inch LCD monitor not made by Apple, and finally hops on the multiple-monitor bandwagon. And the Japanese iTunes Music Store opens to a rush of business and expanded offerings.
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iTMS Opens in Japan, Rolls Some Stones -- Apple Computer got some satisfaction for its iTunes Music Store, announcing not only the debut of the Japanese version of iTMS but also the worldwide availability of early Abkco catalog recordings, which includes early rock 'n roll classics from The Animals, Sam Cooke, Herman's Hermits, Marianne Faithful, and the Rolling Stones. The iTunes Music Store is now the only online music service with the complete catalog of the Rolling Stones.
The Japanese version of the iTunes Music Store reportedly features more than 1 million tracks, including songs from popular Japanese acts such as Little Creatures, Chara, and Crazy Ken Band, alongside Japanese radio shows and podcasts. Over a dozen Japanese companies are providing music for the Japanese version of iTMS, along with international distributors, and Apple plans to offer more Japanese content in the months ahead. Songs on the Japanese version of iTMS sell for 150 or 200 yen (roughly US$1.35 / $1.80). Apple announced this week that the new store sold more than 1 million songs in its first four days of operation. Apple hopes the introduction of the Japanese version of iTMS will spur sales of iPod music players, particularly the iPod shuffle. Unlike the rest of the world - where the iPod is the utterly dominant portable music player - it merely leads the pack in Japan, accounting for about 36 percent of the market while rival Sony has managed to secure about 27 percent of the market for flash-based music players. [GD]
by Mark H. Anbinder <email@example.com>
The conventional wisdom has been that Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs would never allow the company to ship a multi-button mouse; such an animal would compromise the legendary simplicity and ease of use that were Apple's hallmarks. Power users griped and, tired of Control-clicking instead of right-clicking to bring up contextual menus, or, desperate for a scroll wheel, looked for third-party pointing devices.
No more: last week Apple announced the immediate availability of the $50 Mighty Mouse, a programmable multi-function, multi-button mouse for Mac OS X, Windows 2000, or Windows XP. Mighty Mouse (yes, Apple was careful to license the name of the cartoon hero) is visually simple, a white corded mouse that looks just like the Apple Pro Mouse except for a tiny, spherical, scroll ball where the average mouse's scroll wheel might be.
The scroll ball rotates in any direction, rather than just up and down, enabling free-form scrolling that Apple says better suits "applications from viewing Web pages and photographs, to video editing and music creation." This any-direction scrolling is similar to that capability of the new scrolling trackpads featured in recent PowerBook and iBook models. The scroll ball is also clickable, as are most scroll wheels.
What keeps the Mighty Mouse's design pure and simple is the new touch-sensitive upper shell. Rather than separate hard-wired left and right buttons, the Mighty Mouse features a programmable touch area that can be one or two buttons - just one for purists who never need to right-click (and single-button mode is the default), or two for right-clickers or those who would like a right-click to perform some other action.
Side buttons, positioned where users of the Apple Pro Mouse have gotten used to gripping in order to lift and reposition their mouse, can be programmed together or separately, either for clicks or, for example, to activate Expose or Dashboard.
While Mighty Mouse is compatible with any version of Mac OS X, the company says Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger is required to customize the buttons for one-click access to Dashboard, Expose, and Spotlight, or to launch applications. The new mouse is available immediately at the online Apple Store as well as at Apple's retail stores and resellers.
by Jeff Carlson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Back when I took a more partisan approach to operating systems, I considered Dell the latest in the line of sworn enemies of Apple. Sure, Microsoft makes the dominant operating system, but vast numbers of Windows installations end up on Dell PCs. It didn't help that company founder Michael Dell and Steve Jobs have traded PR barbs for years, with Jobs likening Dell laptops to bland Ford Taurus automobiles and Dell commenting that his favorite Jobs creation was the movie Toy Story 2. (Interestingly, Michael Dell also commented recently that he's open to the idea of selling upcoming Intel-based PCs running Mac OS X.)
Since I don't run a PC on a regular basis, I didn't expect that I'd be looking at the Dell logo on my desktop. But that's exactly what's happened - not a PC (though I did buy a refurbished laptop a couple of years ago for testing), but instead a beautiful 20-inch flat-panel widescreen display, the Dell UltraSharp 2005FPW.
Multiple Monitors, At Last -- Adam has been a proponent of using multiple monitors for longer than I've known him (see "Double the Fun with Multiple Monitors" in TidBITS-421). And although he and others have made a good case for more screen resolution over the years, I could never quite justify the cost. Plus, I've used PowerBooks as my main Mac for years; the previous desktop Mac I owned was a Power Macintosh 7500. For a short period I hooked my PowerBook 5300 up to a 17-inch CRT, but only to use the monitor as the main display, with the PowerBook's lid closed. When PowerBook displays started increasing in size, and the 17-inch CRT gave out, I saved my pennies and stuck with the laptop's LCD.
Then, a couple of months ago, I had an opportunity to experience multiple monitor nirvana: as part of a software review for Macworld, Apple went crazy and set me up with the best hardware it could offer to test with: a dual 2.7 GHz Power Mac G5 running two 30-inch Apple Cinema Display monitors (that's more than 8 million pixels; you can see two photos at the URLs below). The hardware had to go back to Apple within a couple of weeks, but it finally convinced me to consider buying a secondary display.
Unfortunately, I'm not keen on spending the $3,000 required for a 30-inch Cinema Display. LCD prices have been falling pretty steadily, though, so I checked Dealmac to see what special offers were available.
Dell, being the giant of the industry, is able to command great prices on the parts it buys, which is one reason the company can offer complete computer systems for relatively little cost. Consequently, Dell frequently puts together deals to move its inventory. In this case, I found the 20.1-inch 2005FPW LCD for around $550. Considering that Apple's original 22-inch Cinema Display cost $4,000, and its current 20-inch model costs $800, the Dell display was a great deal.
More than a Monitor -- The 2005FPW has a 20.1-inch viewable screen size, supporting a maximum resolution of 1680 by 1050 pixels (1,764,000 pixels). According to the technical specifications, it sports a contrast ratio of 600:1, an image brightness of 300 cd/m2 (candela per square meter, a measure of luminosity), and a viewing angle of approximately 88 degrees vertically and horizontally. In real-world terms, that means the screen is bright, beautiful, and sharp.
That's not all, though. The 2005FPW includes four input types: VGA, DVI-D, S-video, and composite. At first I thought that was marketing jargon that indicated you could simply attach just about any device with included adapters, but no, the monitor includes four separate ports. That enables you to connect four devices and switch between them. My PowerBook G4 connects via the DVI-D port, and for fun I hooked up my old Dell laptop via VGA. A button on the front of the monitor's frame switches among the different inputs.
What's more, you can also view two of the inputs in a picture-in-picture configuration or side by side, though this seems to apply only to VGA or DVI and one of the other inputs. I wasn't able to view both my Mac desktop and the Windows screen at once. I suppose I could hook up a DVD player to the S-video or composite ports and watch a movie in the corner of my screen, but I never tried it (I deal with enough distractions; a movie would completely wreck my productivity). Due to these input options, my TidBITS colleague Glenn Fleishman bought a 2005FPW to replace his aging television and turned it into a home entertainment system by hooking it up to his TiVo via S-video and to a Mac mini via DVI.
The 2005FPW also includes four USB ports, so you can use it as a USB hub; an included cable connects to your Mac using a separate USB input, giving you the four open USB ports. Two are easily accessible on the right side of the frame, and the other two are tucked under the bottom with the other inputs, and are harder to reach.
The height is adjustable from 15.3 inches (38.9 cm) to 22.4 inches (56.9 cm), and you can swivel the screen side to side and top to bottom in a fairly limited, but functional, range of motion. More impressive, however, is its capability to rotate: yep, just like the Radius screens of old, you can rotate the entire screen 90 degrees for a portrait view instead of a landscape view. Since all of Dell's technical specifications are geared toward Windows PCs, it's unclear what video hardware is required to support the rotated display. On my PowerBook G4 running the latest version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, a Rotate pop-up menu enables me to set the screen at a 90, 180, or 270 degree rotation.
Never Going Back -- I use the 2005FPW as my main monitor, with my PowerBook set up at the right side to extend my desktop. Even with the PowerBook's 15-inch widescreen display, my workspace felt cramped on its own. With the new setup, I keep my most-used programs on the larger Dell screen, such as email and Word, and reserve the PowerBook's screen for iChat, extra Web pages I reference, and miscellaneous things like Activity Viewer and Terminal.
One downside is that the PowerBook's screen is dim in comparison to the Dell; it would be nice if they both shared the same brightness, but the PowerBook, while brighter than previous models I've owned, is still a display designed to be portable, and therefore not equipped with the same type of lamps found in the desktop LCDs.
If you're looking for a good deal, the 2005FPW is a great choice. As of press time, you could get the 2005FPW for around $525 directly from Dell's Web site. (Be sure to check both the Home and the Small Business sections of the site for prices; the Small Business price is currently $560, while the Home price is $525 for the exact same model.) I've seen Dealmac coupon codes that reduce the price further, but Dell's special deals are fleeting and often limited to a certain number of orders. If another great combination comes up, I may pick up another display to use with my PowerBook when I'm at home.
by Adam C. Engst <email@example.com>
When I last wrote about GPS navigation, Tonya and I had just returned from the mean streets of New York City safely, thanks to the Garmin StreetPilot c330 GPS's voice-navigation instructions. But perhaps the Garmin c330 wasn't the ultimate GPS navigation device. The other big name in GPS is Magellan, so I requested a review unit of the RoadMate 700, the model most comparable to the StreetPilot c330, thanks to its pre-loaded map set. The test? Our trip to Macworld Expo in Boston. Unlike New York City, it's easy to get to Boston from Ithaca; you just follow interstates to the Massachusetts Turnpike, which runs smack into the city. The problem is what happens once you get there, given that Boston is notorious for having some of the most, er... creative street layouts and markings. Would the RoadMate 700 take us successfully to and from our hotel, with some city street navigation through Cambridge on the way home?
The Hardware -- The RoadMate 700 is a bit larger and heavier than the StreetPilot c330 because the RoadMate 700 duplicates touch screen functions with a keypad, includes a hard drive for storing all the maps, and has a slightly larger display. In real-world usage, however, we didn't have trouble with the size of either device, though the slimmer profile of the RoadMate 700 (the one dimension where it's smaller than the StreetPilot c330) made it easier to store in the glove compartment when not in use.
The screen quality was similar, with the RoadMate 700's screen being clear and easy to read, except in bright sun. Tonya found its touch screen a bit less accurate at tracking her finger presses than the StreetPilot c330's screen. However, the RoadMate 700 provides extra controls in the form of right-mounted buttons. There are plus and minus buttons for zooming in and out, an eight-way rocker button for scrolling, and Enter and Cancel buttons for responding to prompts and navigating menus. Then there are three buttons labeled Option (for entering the configuration screens), View (for changing between different views), and Locate (for showing where you are on the map and giving more information about your location). Magellan undoubtedly thought that duplicating most of the touch screen functionality with buttons would help users, and it may, but we found it somewhat confusing, since we had to think at each point whether it made more sense to touch the screen or press a button. And since Tonya found herself leaning forward to press them, she often wasn't entirely sure if she'd pressed the button hard enough, leading to more interface frustration.
The extra weight of the RoadMate 700 probably comes from its internal hard drive and associated power supply, and although the weight of the device isn't an issue at all, the hard drive does make for a slower startup than a RAM-based device. I'd also be a little concerned about the hard drive if the device was left on the dashboard on a blisteringly hot day, and I can't imagine that bitterly cold winter temperatures would be good for it either.
The review unit came with the suction-cup window mount, which attached and detached easily from our Honda Civic's windshield. We did have to position it fairly carefully, though, with the bottom of the arm firmly touching the dashboard, to prevent the RoadMate 700 from shaking enough to become hard to read; even still, it didn't feel as solid as would have been ideal. Magellan offers other mounting accessories; it's possible that one of them would work better.
Most notable in the RoadMate 700's physical design was the lack of a battery, which meant not only that the RoadMate 700 required an outlet in the car (which we provided via a lashed-up power splitter so we could use our iPod as well), but also that it turned off every time we turned the car off. Although the RoadMate 700 was smart about resuming routing directions after coming back up, the boot process was by no means instantaneous, making for some annoying delays after stopping for gas. The lack of a battery also means you can't use the RoadMate 700 outside of the car unless you plug it into the wall, making it clumsy to use indoors and impossible to use on foot or on a bike.
There and Back Again -- In real world use, the RoadMate was a success; it gave us essentially accurate directions that took us to our hotel in Boston, to Tonya's sister's apartment in Cambridge, and home again, complete with a number of unplanned detours forced upon us by creative Boston intersections and construction blockages. Each time we deviated from its planned route, it calculated a new route for us quickly, although it tended to be retentive about the quality of the original route, usually saying, "When possible, make a legal U-turn." Perhaps it's just me, but U-turns strike me as dangerous, so I would have preferred it to say, "When possible, turn around safely" so I could look for the next reasonable parking lot driveway to pull into and turn around in.
Though the RoadMate 700 was a success, and we would have had far more trouble navigating in Boston without it, it wasn't an unqualified success. Twice in Harvard Square in Cambridge, the RoadMate 700 tried to send us down one-way streets the wrong way. And yes, I know the Boston joke about how "it's only one block" down the one-way street; maybe the RoadMate 700's designers spent their college years at Harvard or MIT and know which one-way signs can be ignored. Once, when we tried to exclude a road from the directions in an attempt to get the RoadMate 700 to give us a new route, it seemed to get stuck, and we had to cancel the routing and try again entirely. Its timing for warning us of approaching turns seemed to be a little less accurate, or perhaps a little less what we expected, than the StreetPilot c330's directions. Particularly in situations where there were a number of streets very close together, it was hard to follow its instructions properly while driving safely; I took a wrong turn in Harvard Square because there were several "right" turns at a confusing intersection and I had to make a decision before I'd heard the tone that indicated "turn now."
Those tones, by the way, were helpful and accurate; the tone played just as you should be turning. In a clever touch, turning left, turning right, and staying straight generated different tones, though my ears aren't sufficiently trained to say exactly how they were different. As with the StreetPilot c330, I found myself wishing that instead of the tones, the RoadMate 700 would just speak the name of the next street, since it's hard to glance down at the display to read it when performing complex maneuvers.
We also preferred the 3-D map display of the StreetPilot c330 over the overhead map view of the RoadMate 700. Although the RoadMate 700 also featured a "TrueView" 3-D view, it appeared only for turns, either taking over the entire screen or splitting the screen in half. A maneuver list view showed just the directions, which was handy for sanity checking the route in advance. The maneuver list also appeared automatically when the RoadMate 700 lost the GPS signal for a certain amount of time, which is smart, though it didn't save us from making the wrong turn as we came out from a tunnel in Boston because we couldn't find any street signs that matched the next turn. Luckily, the RoadMate 700 was able to guide us back on track once it picked up the satellite signal again.
Speaking of the satellites, reception was another disappointment with the RoadMate 700. Once it locked on, it was fine, but sometimes it took quite a while to find the satellites in situations that should not have been problematic (clear skies, no trees or tall buildings, or other obvious obstacles). We drove more than 2 miles through Boston on Massachusetts Avenue toward Cambridge, including crossing the Charles River on a wide-open bridge, before the RoadMate 700 picked up the satellite signal. That was a little hair-raising, since although we had a maneuver list, we knew making our way through Cambridge was going to be tricky. The RoadMate 700 has a little flip-up antenna built in, and if that's insufficient, Magellan sells an external antenna.
On the plus side, we had several opportunities to use the point-of-interest database, which we hadn't tried with the StreetPilot c330. It was brilliant, since we could ask it to find us a restaurant nearby, scroll through the list to eliminate the fast food joints at which we won't stop on principle, and then get directions to a local cafe or diner just a bit further off the freeway than we would previously have ventured, all without worrying about how we'd get back on the freeway, since we knew the RoadMate would take us back as well. Plus, as we were leaving Massachusetts on the way home, I made the mistake of not filling up with gas at the last service stop in Massachusetts and thus ending up in the barren zone before getting to Albany. The tank was getting worryingly low, so I asked the RoadMate 700 to find a gas station nearby. It did, taking us up I-90, which had the interesting result of changing the rest of the directions home to go a route we'd never considered before, but which turned out to be equally fast.
Entering an address into the RoadMate 700 is easy, thanks to its QuickSpell technology for limiting the amount of data input necessary. Although I couldn't test this, it's reportedly possible to beam an address to the RoadMate 700 from a Palm or PocketPC device. One advantage over the StreetPilot c330 was that whenever we programmed a route into the RoadMate 700, we could choose from shortest time, shortest distance, least use of freeways, and most use of freeways. Although the choice seemed like a good thing, we couldn't see any particular difference between the different options most of the time, and there wasn't an easy way to compare what they would do. We had the RoadMate 700 only for a few weeks of review, though, so it's possible that these options would be significantly more obvious and helpful if you were to use it on a regular basis in a congested metropolitan area.
The Big Picture -- Although the RoadMate 700 worked well at its basic task most of the time, it didn't evoke in us the same level of appreciation as the StreetPilot c330 did. It had more options, including male and female voices and the choice of touch screen or physical controls, but those options didn't seem to add much other than some complexity. One option that could have been useful to other people was support for three users, each with their own recently entered addresses and preferences. If you were planning on sharing a GPS with others (perhaps to justify the cost of an expensive gadget), this capability could be quite handy.
As with the StreetPilot series, infrequent map upgrades for the RoadMate 700 aren't free, so you have to factor in paying even more money on top of the $750 to $1,000 price you'll find at various retailers. All together, that's a bit much for my tastes, particularly with my worry about the hard drive in extreme environmental conditions, so I'll be continuing my search for the ultimate GPS navigation device.
It's possible that device will in fact be coming from Magellan: as I was finishing this review, I learned that the company had released the RoadMate 760, which is essentially the same hardware as the 700, but with some tremendously attractive new features. Most notable is its "SayWhere" text-to-speech technology that speaks the name of the next turn - at last! It also features multi-destination routing, which I've not needed, but which would be key for a consultant or anyone running multiple errands in an unfamiliar area. Then there's automatic brightness and volume control that adjusts screen brightness and speaker volume with time of day and speed; with the 700 we found ourselves adjusting volume levels at various times to deal with changing amounts of road noise. "Smart Detour" to route around traffic jams, construction, and other unpredictable obstacles automatically when traffic stops for more than a few minutes. And lastly, its point-of-interest database increases from nearly 2 million entries for the 700 to nearly 7 million.
Of course, Garmin hasn't been sitting still, with the StreetPilot c340 and StreetPilot 2720 both adding text-to-speech and optional notification and routing around congestion in certain metropolitan areas, so even the RoadMate 760 will have plenty of competition. Watch this space!
by TidBITS Staff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be faster.
Flickering PowerBook screen -- A reader reports flaky flickering on his laptop screen, but is it worth the cost to repair the problem, or better to buy a Mac mini and an inexpensive LCD display? (2 messages)
Tiger Mail vs Spotlight -- The new version of Mail under Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger stores each message as a separate file to enable Spotlight searching, instead of as a large database. Readers discuss the pros and cons of this approach. (19 messages)
Segway sightings -- Where are people spotting the two-wheeled "personal transporter" devices in the wild? Although Segways haven't achieved broad acceptance, more people appear to be using them. (6 messages)
Hell Freezes Over: News at 11 -- News of Apple's multi-button Mighty Mouse draws the inevitable comparisons between the Red Sox winning the World Series and Apple using Intel processors. (23 messages)
Files vs. databases -- A look at flat-file versus relational database schemes, and how each is used in Mac OS X for specific uses such as Mail and iCal. (4 messages)
Mighty Mouse -- Apple's new mouse gets readers wondering about future Bluetooth models, as well as pondering the critter's internal workings thanks to detailed dissection photos on the Web. (13 messages)
WebObjects as CMS? A reader is looking for examples of Apple's WebObjects technology being used for content management systems. (4 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
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