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If you’re anything like most Apple users, you’ll be used to the twinge of excitement that comes around every time Apple announces a new product or gadget. The company has one of the greatest sales pitch records in the history of technology, and it’s hard not to be impressed with pretty much anything that comes out of Cupertino.

But, glitzy sales magic aside, how often are you compelled as a Mac user to upgrade your hardware? Is it something that you see as a rare necessity, or a yearly indulgence to make sure you’re always up to date with the latest Mac lineup?

Personally, I tend to stick with the hardware I have for as long as possible. I usually only upgrade when either my Mac starts to exhibit problems and become unreliable, or when a new form factor/update genuinely means that I’ll be able to do my job better.

The portability of the Macbook Air is close to hitting the second of these, but I haven’t felt the urge to upgrade from my MacBook Pro just yet…

Let us know your own thoughts on the topic, and do share your opinion in the comments!

Apple is known for often being one of the fore-runners in adopting new technologies – Firewire, ExpressCard, and Mini DisplayPort spring to mind. But equally, the company can be ruthless about dropping the inclusion of features they no longer feel to be relevant.

Blu-ray is an interesting outlier, and it isn’t obvious whether Apple is planning to adopt the technology yet. As themselves a video distributor through the iTunes Store, choosing to include an optical format that’s almost exclusively used for HD films would not necessarily be in their competitive interest.

Apple is a purveyor of the benefits of downloadable content – whether that be apps, music, or HD movies and TV shows. It even seems that they’d ultimately like to move away from optical media altogether, as is the case with the MacBook Air.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with this. I rarely use the DVD drive in the MacBook Pro – a couple of times per year at most – and I wouldn’t think twice before purchasing a machine with no optical drive at all. I don’t own any Blu-ray equipment or media, and am content downloading HD content from the iTunes Store.

But do you feel the same? Or is it Apple’s duty to support a wide range of formats – especially widespread standards such as Blu-ray? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Developers have taken one of three approaches with the Mac App Store. It’s either being completely passed over by a developer, used as an additional way to sell their app (as well as through their own website), or adopted as the sole, exclusive way to buy their software.

The initial anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that both of the latter approaches are working extremely well, with many developers seeing sales increase by over ten times the usual number.

But what do you think of the Mac App Store becoming an exclusive sales channel for Mac software? Many developers (such as Pixelmator) have chosen to now sell their software only through the App Store. The advantages are obvious – Apple handles payment, processing, distribution, and gives a serious promotional boost.

Personally, I’m fairly happy with this arrangement. Buying software through the Mac App Store is easy, fast, and a huge improvement over the previous disjointed and inconsistent process that varied significantly between developer websites. Many of the problems that plagued the App Store at the outset are gradually fading away, and we’re starting to see a much improved system with fewer high-profile rejections and judgement errors.

But what do you think? Is selling exclusively through the Mac App Store a great way to simplify your life as a developer, or should software creators be thinking twice before putting all their eggs in Apple’s basket? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Hot on the heels of our recent roundup of blockbuster Mac games, I thought it would be interesting to see just how many of you do use your Mac for gaming on a regular basis.

In recent months, I’ve actually found my iPad to be the go-to choice for trying out new games and killing time. Although there are a vast array of games available for the Mac, I often find the high price point to be too much of a barrier. If I can instead pay $5 or $10 for a fun iPad game, I’m more likely to go for it.

Consoles certainly still rule the market when it comes to gaming, but more and more Mac users are finding that their machine is much better suited for gaming than they originally thought.

I’d love to hear what you think, so be sure to fill out our weekly poll and leave your own thoughts in the comments. Are you a regular Mac gamer, or do you prefer to stick to a dedicated console?

With Macworld 2011 slowly approaching, I thought it would be interesting to ask whether any of our readers have attended this conference previously (or are planning on going next year).

If you’re unaware of what Macworld is, essentially it’s a four day event that covers everything to do with the Mac. It includes user sessions focusing on teaching, an Expo floor for software exhibitors, various conference programmes, and generally lots of Mac-geekery! It’s based in San Francisco, running from the 26th-29th January.

Although Apple used to attend this event, the company pulled out prior to last year’s event. It seems that the 2010 conference was still a major success, despite their absence, and Macworld will be running once again next month.

The AppStorm team is going to be in attendance in January (a first for all of us!), and we’re really looking forward to meeting a few of you there. Let us know if you’ll be going in the comments!

Apple’s retail operation has been a huge success for the company, with over 300 stores worldwide, across 11 different countries. Rather than a dry retail experience, everything in an Apple Store is carefully thought about—right down to the type of wood used for the counters.

The model of “Come to shop. Return to learn.” works well, instilling a sense of creativity and education into an otherwise very commercial experience. Although the primary aim of an Apple store is obviously to sell Apple products, the commitment to having creative specialists and dedicated trainers is something rarely found elsewhere.

I have a couple of Apple Stores close by in Manchester, but have been finding that over the years they are becoming far more crowded, all the time. What used to be a fantastic browsing experience is now akin to fighting your way to the front of a packed concert venue.

Are you finding the same thing? And how often do you visit an Apple Store nearby? I’d be interested to know whether you still find it a great place to check out the latest Apple gadgets, or if the ever-increasing crowds make visiting more of a necessity than a pleasure.

Office 2011 brings plenty of improvements over previous versions, but it’s still far from perfect. And despite the overwhelming dominance of Microsoft Office across Windows and Mac, it certainly isn’t the only suite of office-style tools available.

Personally, I’m a huge fan of the iWork suite. After a sluggish and frustrating first release, I think that it has improved in leaps and bounds. I use Pages and Numbers almost exclusively for all my word processing and spreadsheet work (though I prefer to write in something simpler most of the time).

Another alternative is the excellent OpenOffice, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday. This has really become a viable contender in recent years, and version 3 felt considerably more “at home” on OS X. If you’ve never used OpenOffice before, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.

So, which suite of “office” style applications do you use? Like me, are you an iWork fan? Or do you think that Microsoft Office still leads the way in this area? Share your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to hear what you think!

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?

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!

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