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No going back.

Last January, my Windows XP laptop croaked. It was the motherboard, something to do with the power supply. The machine would no longer run off AC when plugged into the wall, and the batteries would no longer recharge.

It would have cost more than half the price of a comparable new machine to replace the motherboard, so I had to buy another laptop. I hadn't planned on spending that kind of money right then, and, geez, the old machine didn't even last 2 years. (Although it was used constantly and did take a couple of motorcycle trips too.) I probably should have purchased the extended warranty. Oh well, live and learn.

I didn't know what to buy. I looked through reviews and thought about what I use a computer for now (writing, e-mailing, blogging, Web browsing). I also considered what matters to me (reliability, portability, etc.).

So I bought an Apple iBook.

My house has been Mac OS-agnostic for quite a while. Right now, on my wireless network, I have a large Windows 2000 workstation with dual processors; one of those older clear plastic iMacs that looks like a portable television; and, now, this iBook, which replaced the XP laptop. It's the bottom-of-the-line iBook, with the 12-inch screen. I worried that the screen might be too small for someone with middle-aged eyes, but everything looks quite sharp. The only modifications I made, hardwarewise, were to double the RAM (these machines only come with 256 MB), because I knew I was going to run an office suite and a photo editor, and to add a small USB mouse, because I've never liked touchpads.

OS X, the current Macintosh operating system, is based on UNIX. If you know UNIX, you can pull up a terminal window and use its commands. I used to know UNIX quite well. Now, I only know enough to get myself into trouble, so I leave the terminal window alone. But I'm still getting used to the nuances of the operating system. As I am writing this at the end of April, the latest iteration of OS X, called Tiger, has just been released. I plan to keep using the previous version, called Panther, for at least a little while because I've come to believe that, when dealing with technology, it is generally wise to let the cutting-edge people be the guinea pigs.

The iBook came with a lot of software already installed, including Quicken; the venerable AppleWorks suite; iTunes for all things music; and iPhoto, which organizes photos well but has only primitive editing capabilities. I installed the Mac version of MS Office in order to be compatible with my editors and most of the rest of the world and Photoshop Elements because I'm working on a book that involves a lot of image wrangling.

So far, so good. I'm getting rather attached to this little white machine. For one thing, I do not have to be concerned with viruses, spyware, or other malware. Rogue Web pages cannot install anything on this computer without my knowledge; OS X requires you to enter a password before anything gets installed. It is a simple but elegant way of keeping nasty stuff out. It also helps that the bad guys don't really feel it's worth their time to write malware for Macs because the user-base is so small, compared to all the vulnerable Windows users out there.

This machine is not perfect, of course. Apple Mail is serviceable but rather anemic compared to Entourage, the e-mail application included with Microsoft Office for the Mac. The native OS X browser, Safari, is not compatible with a lot of the Web, including Blogger, which I use every day. Firefox is a much better choice, and you can't beat the support it gets from the open source community. I've grown dependent on many of the plug-ins and extensions written for it that make Web browsing and searching so much more convenient. (Firefox is, of course, available for Windows users and is far less vulnerable to spyware than Internet Explorer.)

One OS X application that I really like is Preview. Not only does this little gem display PDFs with less overhead than Adobe Acrobat Reader, but you can also use it to look at a wide variety of image files and save them in different formats (and you can search, copy, and paste too).

Back when I first got involved with technology, I loved spending hours tinkering. I explored every bell and whistle of every major software application I had. I downloaded, installed, and played with just about every freeware or shareware program I could find. I loved technology for its own sake.

I don't feel quite the same anymore. Perhaps it's because the novelty has worn off. Perhaps it's because technology has become so expansive and pervasive that it's impossible to keep up with the pace of change. A big part of it, I think, is that I really don't have the time to fool around with this stuff anymore--I just want it to work.

While the iBook has its own idiosyncrasies--many of which I am still trying to figure out--I am very pleased with its reliability and stability. It hasn't frozen up on me yet or eaten any of my files. I'm finding out that OS X is customizable to the extreme, and I can change virtually anything to be more compatible with the way I work. It's kind of refreshing, actually, to have a machine accommodate my needs rather than have me adjust to its requirements.

Shirley Duglin Kennedy is the reference librarian at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., and co-editor of Resource-Shelf. Her e-mail address is sdkennedy@
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Title Annotation:Internet Waves; Apple iBook
Author:Kennedy, Shirley Duglin
Publication:Information Today
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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