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Weekly Poll

Skype is one of those programs that is used by almost everyone in one way or another. Whether you have it open all day, or just fire it up to chat with family when you’re away on holiday, most Mac users will have encountered it at some point.

Last week, Skype announced the release of a new Beta for Mac users – Skype 5.0. This new version takes a radical departure from the old Skype interface, in an effort to adopt a “one window” approach and make using the app much simpler.

Although I really like the thinking behind this new version – tighter OS X integration, and a simpler interface – I was really disappointed with a few aspects of the design. Most notably the spacing between elements, which quickly becomes a complete nightmare if you have a long list of contacts.

At the very least, I’d have expected an option to scale down the font size, or switch to a more compact view. At present, it feels like the “one window” approach uses up twice as much desktop space, while only showing half the information I’m used to.

If you haven’t tried it yet, download the beta and let us know what you think! Do you agree with me, or are you impressed with the new, roomier interface?

With Apple recently announcing the Gold Master release of their iOS 4.2 operating system, it isn’t going to be long before we have a chance to play around with the capabilities of AirPlay.

Simply put, this will be a way to stream content between all your different Apple devices. At the outset, you’ll be able to stream music from iTunes to AirPlay enabled devices (as you could previously with the previous iteration, “AirTunes”), and also wirelessly stream video and audio from your iOS device to a new Apple TV.

This new wireless video streaming is something I’m really looking forward to. I often have a video on my iPad that I’d love to watch on a larger screen – or vice versa – I’d like to stream a video from iTunes on my Mac down to my iPad to watch on the couch.

It isn’t really clear what will be possible with AirPlay just yet. Whether it will allow video streaming to/from your Mac seems to be an unknown factor. I really hope that this will be possible, but I guess we’ll find out soon!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you’ll be using AirPlay. Is it something you’re really looking forward to, or are you a little bit indifferent about the whole thing? Let us know using the poll above, and feel free to voice your opinion in the comments!

The announcement of the Mac App Store was something of a semi-surprise. We all considered it a future possibility, but there was a significant amount of doubt over whether Apple would actually flip the switch and implement the idea. As it turns out, in less than 90 days, we’ll have the Mac App Store sitting on our desktop!

For the majority of Mac users, this will be a great addition. It takes away the headache of a complicated installation process, removes the need to understand what a .DMG is, and gives them an easy way to find software they may not have otherwise.

Many people, myself included, take solace in the fact that this is “just one way” to install software on our Mac. We’re not tied to only installing software that has passed Apple’s approval process, and are free to tinker to our heart’s content. This isn’t a closed eco-system.

But will this always be the case? Today I’d like to ask what you think Apple’s future intention is with the Mac App Store. Will it always be “just one way” to install software, or will it one day be the only way to install new apps on your Mac? And would this be a good or bad thing?

Have your say in the comments!

There’s plenty of anticipation and hype surrounding Apple’s Mac event tomorrow, and I’m really excited to see which new features and functionality are announced. It’s about time that the Mac and OS X saw some love and attention from Apple.

So, what do I really want to see announced tomorrow? First and foremost, I’d love to see anything that helps to improve Apple’s support for cloud functionality and syncing. This has been a long time coming and, although it’s related to iOS as well, it might make an appearance as one of the new pieces of core functionality in OS X Lion.

Second, I’m excited about the potential that AirPlay has to stream content between devices in real-time. Being able to send a video wirelessly to my iPad or iPhone from my Mac would be fantastic, as would doing the same thing in reverse.

As for all the rumours surrounding tweaks to the OS X interface? I could take it or leave it. I’m a big fan of the look-and-feel of the current Snow Leopard UI and, short of adding iOS style scrolling (and “pull to refresh”), there isn’t much I’d change.

What are you hoping to see tomorrow? Let us know your favourite potential feature in the poll above, and give me a shout in the comments if what you’re excited about isn’t listed!

I’ve read a few interesting articles this week about whether apps that help you achieve better productivity or a “distraction free” environment are really a good thing (e.g. WriteRoom). On the face of it, this type of software does help you get more done and avoid a cluttered workflow. But is it that simple?

Another argument could be that the process of trying out all these new “productivity enhancing” applications is actually just a way of putting off work that needs to be done! Wouldn’t it be better if you just settled on a single app and got to work?

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on this. How do you view this process of searching for and trying out new apps? Does it ultimately lead to the “ultimate” set of software for a productive workflow, or is it just another way of procrastinating?

As a side note; if you want to read something slightly more in-depth about this topic, try this recent article by Merlin Mann. Lengthy and detailed, but fascinating nonetheless.

Today’s question is a simple one, but I thought it would be really interesting to see where we all fall on the Mac lineup. I use a MacBook Pro personally, and have been thinking about upgrading at some point over the next six months or so. My dilemma is whether to stick with a notebook, or opt for one of the 27″ iMacs.

I really like the idea of a portable computer, but in reality I very rarely use it for that purpose. Maybe my investment would be better made into a Mac that also comes with a gorgeous screen.

While we’re at it, feel free to leave a comment and let us know what the very first Mac was that you ever bought. Mine was one of the first Mac Minis – the day they were announced, in fact! Up until then, Mac hardware had always been slightly too expensive for me to make the jump.

I’d love to hear when and how you switched to the OS X platform, as I expect many of you made the move long before I did. Big points go to any dedicated readers that were die-hard Apple fans right back in the 1980s!

Much has been said about solid-state drives (SSD) being the next “big thing” in terms of computer performance. If you regularly find that your Mac is running slowly when opening apps and booting, it might be obvious to immediately think that the problem is down to insufficient RAM.

Although the amount of memory in your Mac does make a big difference, we’re starting to get to the point where we all have plenty of RAM for everyday tasks (4GB is more than enough for most Mac users). The main piece of old technology inside your MacBook or iMac is actually the hard drive, and that can contribute significantly to poor performance with certain tasks.

Not convinced that you’ll notice a performance benefit? Check out this video and come back in two minutes. I’ll wait!

So why hasn’t everyone jumped ship to this new performance-boosting miracle? The main problem with solid-state drives at present boils down to price. They’re still far more expensive than a standard Serial ATA drive, and out of the budget of many Mac users.

The question I’m asking today is whether you’re sporting a shiny new SSD (and reaping the performance benefits), or waiting for the price to drop over the next year or so. Have your say in the poll, and let me know your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear what you all think!

Whenever Apple announces a new feature or application update, there’s always a huge amount of commotion and furious opinion sharing. iTunes Ping was one such feature addition, aiming to broaden iTunes into a social network for music.

I think Apple is really starting to stretch the limits of what iTunes is capable of. What started as a simple application for collating your music library now stores TV Shows, Movies, and Podcasts as well, is a full-fledged music and video store, your iPod/iPhone/iPad sync tool, your Apple TV counterpart, an App Store, online radio player, and – now – a social network as well. Phew!

Almost all the software tools I love and use every day on the Mac succeed because they do one thing remarkably well. Simplicity is the absolute key for a successful piece of software, and Apple themselves know this. Most of their software for the Mac and iOS leaves out many features that are packed in by competitors (consider the one-button simplicity of the iPhone camera app, for instance).

My question for you today centres around your thoughts on iTunes Ping. Is this a valuable service for music lovers, or have Apple finally succumbed to the perils of feature-bloat?

We’re kicking off a new weekly poll today, getting our readers opinion on a different topic each week. Hopefully this will give us all a chance to talk about a relevant issue, share our thoughts, and generally have a chat in the comments!

Today I’m asking something fairly general – how many people have you converted to the Mac platform? I’ve almost lost count of the number of people I’ve tried to haggle and persuade into buying a Mac – friends, family, colleagues – no-one is safe from my persistent nagging!

Do they all make the switch? Not everyone. But I reckon the number of loyal switchers I’ve managed to convert made the jump into double figures quite some time ago.

It’s just a shame that Apple don’t offer a commission every time you drag someone down to the local Apple Store…

Are you the same? Let us know – and do share your thoughts in the comments!

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