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ImAFish crew members have been involved in a number of radio related projects. Pete had a radio show on Coventry University's Source Radio which can be heard through their website. The show was ground breaking for the station with a unique mixture of guests, music, fun and games.
You can download the best bits of the show as well as a number of other audio clips:
Best Of Monday Night Dance (MP3 22mb 30mins) (blog)
Best Of Monday Night Dance Part 2 (MP3 25mb 37min) (blog)
Kiefer Sutherland Interview (MP3 4mb 5min) (blog)
Coventry University Vice Chancellor Interview (MP3 18mb) (blog)
I have wanted a Mac (www.apple.com/uk) for some time now but could never justify spending £550 for the cheapest eMac. When the Mac Mini (www.apple.com/macmini) was announced in mid January the Mac was finally more affordable and soon after the launch date I ordered one.
Apple say 3-4 weeks building and delivery online but mine came within 5 working days which was a pleasant surprise (ordered Monday afternoon came 9am Friday morning). The Mac Mini comes without a monitor, keyboard or mouse so in essence its just the desktop box.
The first thing you notice is its size, I have seen plenty of pictures on the net but its not until you hold one that you realise how small it actually is. I have had a Shuttle PC (shuttle.com) for quite some time yet the Mac Mini brings a whole new meaning to small desktops.
All of my Mac Mini Photos:
(When I refer to a PC in this article I mean a computer running either Windows or Linux, when I say Mac I'm referring to my Mac Mini.)
1.25ghz PowerPC G4.
512mbs DDR Memory.
ATI Radeon 9200 32mb Graphics Card.
40 GB Hard Drive.
By default the Mac Mini doesn't come with 512mb of memory but for any heavy handed multi-taskers such as myself it is recommended to upgrade from the standard 256mb.
There is a slightly more powerful Mac Mini available (as shown on the specs link above), with a larger hard drive but I'm not sure if the processing power would make a lot of difference and I already have an external hard drive with the majority of my data on.
As well as being small the Mac Mini is almost silent in fact my external hard drive drowns out any noise from the Mac and even that is fairly quiet. If it wasn't for the start-up jingle or the white power LED it would be hard to tell the machine was actually running.
Looking at the specs the Mac Mini doesn't look as powerful as similarly priced systems from PC manufacturers but after using the system for a while you realise that you cant compare a Mac's hardware to a PC's hardware like for like.
As OSX is made specifically for certain hardware, programs tend to run faster (Rather than Windows or Linux made for a range of compliant processors and motherboards etc), this along with the way OSX caches running programs you get what seems as programs running just as fast as they would on higher specification PC hardware.
On the down side open up too many programs at once and you soon run out of memory. Even with 512mbs once you have your web browser, mail client, audio manager, office suite and messenger program running your soon run out of memory.
When first booting your Mac Mini you are asked to fill in a few details about yourself and you get asked some basic questions to help configure your Mac. This is also the first time you see some of the 3D effects used. Each screen of the form is on the side of a cube, every time you press next the screen animates the cube turning. While its nothing really important its something your don't see in Windows or Linux.
The different animated effects go through all different areas of the OS from icon zooming in the dock to the minimising of windows.
The dock is where you find most of your common day applications, if you have come from Windows or Linux then its quite a different way of doing things. In a way its an interactive quick launch bar, interactive because it tells you which programs are running. Any programs you minimise go to the right side of the dock along with your recycle bin.
The Mac screen has a constant menu bar at the top, this changes based on which application you have on top. If you are on the desktop you have the finder menus and if you are in iTunes then you then have the iTunes menus at the top and so on.
By default on the menu bar there is the time, language and volume control, this gets added to for instance by plugging in a Bluetooth device you get a little Bluetooth icon with various options.
It takes a bit of getting used to as you expect the menus to be at the top of the application window rather than the top of the screen though once you familiarise yourself it adds to standardising the layout.
Another nice feature of OSX is Expos? which can be best described as an organisational tool for your desktop. By pressing f9, f10 or f11 you get to see different views of your desktop and the windows on it. For instance f9 zooms out all the windows on your desktop allowing you to select one which is then zoomed back in on. F11 on the other hand clears all the windows to the edge of your desktop.
There is a nice Quicktime video on the Apple site which explains this better. Expose Video.
Burning CDs was very easy and fast on the Mac Mini. Audio CDs can be burnt in iTunes and data CDs can be done through dragging and dropping in the finder.
The final section I want to cover for OSX is the Finder, this is the square face icon found in the left of the dock and is sort of a ?My Computer? for OSX. Down the left are all your drives (including network), applications and documents then you get the contents displayed on the right.
The Mac Mini comes with a range of software including Apple Works 6 and iLife 04 and iLife 05 (05 comes on a separate DVD while 04 comes installed ? I'm guessing iLife 05 was finished after the Mac Mini's software image was made)
Out of the iLife suite I found iTunes and iPhoto to be the most useful. GarageBand, iDVD and iMovie are great if you have the time and creativity and they are easy to get to know for even someone with little prior experience.
I loaded up GarageBand and quickly produced something that most people would say sounded nothing like music. However it was fun to use and at least I was happy with my ?song?.
GarageBand comes with over a thousand different music samples, its then upto you how and where you position these on your score to compose a song. This can then be exported to iTunes and converted to an mp3 to send to your friends (or record studio executives).
iTunes has been a favourite of mine in Windows and I have used the store excessively. In Windows I always thought it didn't quite fit in with other programs but on the Mac it fits right in.
iTunes is one of the best audio players and managers for a number of reasons. First I like the way you can create as many play lists as you want (displayed down the left hand side). Then with the library at the top which is able to search through your music instantly.
That combined with the music store that lets me listen to music in OSX, Windows or Linux (through Crossover Office which is much better than any windows media based service can boast.
iPhoto was another program I enjoyed using, while it was a bit slow with my 2000+ photos, I found the enhance and crop tools very useful. I don't normally use photo organisational programs but because of the similar interface to iTunes it was easy to pick up.
There are a lot more comments I could make about the iLife suite but more detail would make this article longer than it already is.
I installed a few essential programs, one being Firefox and another Thunderbird. Not that there is anything wrong with Safari or Mail its just that I'm used to the Mozilla applications in Windows and Linux, making comforts such as favourites and mail boxes easy to import.
Firefox didn't work as well in OSX compared to Windows or Linux, for instance the middle mouse button would not open new tabs meaning you had to use the command key + left click. Not really a big issue and I believe its being fixed for Firefox 1.1.
Both Firefox and Thunderbird look at home in OSX, Thunderbird especially has a nicely polished design being uncluttered and simple.
I had a quick look through Appleworks 6 and wasn't too impressed though it has now been replaced by Apple's iWork this however did not get shipped with the Mac Mini. I use OpenOffice on my other machines so it was an obvious choice over the others just for compatibility purposes.
OpenOffice itself requires x11 to run and looks out of place (like most X11 applications in OSX) while it retained the functionality and was perfectly usable it didn't fit in. Fortunately I came across NeoOffice, an OSX specific of OpenOffice that cuts out the need for X11 and makes a good effort to make OpenOffice look nice (I'm writing this article in it currently).
NeoOffice is still in its beta stage, I have not seen any major problems though it can be ?laggy? at times. Even as a beta I would recommend NeoOffice over OpenOffice simply for the reason it fits in better yet providing the same functionality as OpenOffice.
Along with buying my Mac Mini I also got an Apple keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is fine and the main difference is in the command button which is used in a lot of cases as a ctrl replacement (in Windows) for short cuts such as copying, pasting and program menus. Some of the keys are in funny places, such as the @ and the ? have been swapped and the hash key has to be done through alt + 3.
The mouse on the other hand only has 1 button and no scroll wheel. While the lack of scroll wheel is slightly annoying for the majority of OSX apps the need for a right click button is minimal (If needed can be simulated with the ctrl button).
However in the case of NeoOffice and to a certain extent the Mozilla applications there is a greater need for the right click button. For instance on spelling mistakes in NeoOffice the right click is most useful for sorting out quick spellings (no excuse for the poor grammar in this article) or in Firefox viewing the properties of an image.
Most of these options are available in other menus but the right click menu just speeds things up. It wasn't long before I went back to my Microsoft Intelimouse though I could see the one button mouse being useful for people who do find two buttons confusing.
For my Mac to become a complete media PC one part was missing, a video player. OSX does come bundled with Quicktime and Windows Media Player is available for download however in order to to play a wider range of videos VLC is the best option. VLC comes with an OSX port that sits nicely into OSX and plays pretty much all types of common video files.
There is also DivX for Mac which includes the DivX player and a plugin for Quicktime. I preferred to use Quicktime where possible as it has a bigger bar for skipping through to specific parts of the video compared to VLC.
Video plug-ins for browsers was another area I was impressed, I installed Real Player then booted up Firefox and instantly I could listen to Radio 1 online. It was similar with WMP and the videos on Mp3.com and Quicktime for the new Star Wars trailer. This used to be a nightmare with Firefox in Linux (hours I spent trying to get Real Player working in SuSE and can also be a hassle in Windows.
Networking is similar to as in Windows and to some extent some Linux distributions (SuSE's YaST for instance) and if your getting settings through DHCP everything should work fine. OSX isn't full of conflicting networking wizards like Windows and (for me anyway) connecting to the network to get an Internet connection was easy.
Accessing files off a Windows machine was just as easy though if the file list in the Windows directory changed after viewing them I often had to remount the drive to see the changes. Network printing worked fine for my Epson printer but neither of my HP printers would work.
I have had a D-Link Bluetooth adapter for about 18 months and its hit or miss whether it works in Windows, sometimes you plug it in and it works with the D-Link drivers, other times it wants to use the Windows drivers. SuSE included support for it in 9.2 of their distribution though the functionality is limited.
On the Mac though it works straight out of the box. You plug it in, set a password and can then send and receive files or use a phone (tested with a Sony Ericsson K700i) as a remote control. There is no hassle, no installing drives, no hours of playing with settings it just works.
I have used so many different operating systems, from Windows, to Mandrake, to Red Hat, to SuSE and each has its various problems. OSX is based on BSD so if you look at the underlying file structure and console it shares a lot of similarities with Linux.
These similarities with Linux do give it a unique advantage as there are so many good programs available for X11 that the Mac can make available but OSX doesn't feel anything like Linux for the simple reason it takes so much hassle out of everything that Linux seems to add in.
Its so easy to get lost in getting things working or configured properly in Linux or Windows that you loose so much time that you could be using creatively. The Mac puts this back into the computer experience by taking out the hassle.
Most of all about the Mac Mini is that is looks cool, Apple didn't just bring out a desktop PC like everyone else they innovated to produce something that looks unique. Its the perfect size to pop into your bag and go to a friends house or to work and plug in an existing monitor, keyboard or mouse.
KDE is one of the most popular and well known of the Linux GUIs. I personally find it my favourite however different features appeal to different people. I find KDE the easiest to use and it?s the best for new users. KDE can be started from the console if installed by typing KDM on most distributions. KDE should load pretty quickly on most modern computers and the desktop can be personalised depending on which user has logged into the computer.
This makes it good if your whole family uses the computer as each person can have a different desktop to suit their needs. The first thing you may notice is that to open something you only need 1 click and not 2. This can be changed from the control panel but normally speeds things up once you get used to it. Another thing you may notice in KDE is that you have 4 desktops! This is very handy if you have lots of programs open at once though takes a lot of getting used to if you have migrated from windows. It took me ages to stop just using 1 desktop and start using 4.
You can have up to 12 desktops in KDE, though I wouldn?t advise it as you may loose things! Most things work pretty much like Windows, for instance moving things round the desktop and browsing the K menu are all things you should be familiar with from Windows. The lock screen tool is also very handy if you have other people in your house that you don?t want to see what's on the desktop while you pop out for a while. The desktop bar is made up of a number of applets such as the clock and the show desktop button. You can add new applets but right clicking then clicking on add.
This also lets you add links to programs to the bar. The programs menu is not similar to windows as in KDE your programs are ordered by type, for instance Games would include all the games you had installed while internet would contain programs for the internet such as web browsers and internet setup. KDE comes with its own file browser and web browser called Konqueror that is built into KDE and can be very useful, it?s similar to windows explorer but has many more features. When quitting KDE you have a number of options, you can simply login as another user, reboot the computer and halt the computer.
The system requirements will mainly depend on what you intend to use your computer for. For instance if your going to be running a full desktop environment then your going to need a more powerful pc then if you were just running the console for some simple services. Generally if your going to be running a full desktop environment with multimedia apps open and internet programs your going to need at least a Pentium 500, with 64mbs of ram. Some people would argue that you could run it on a slower processor but if you want some reasonable speed the more power you can get the better.
Ram wise I wouldn?t use anything less then 64mbs worth and its normally recommended when using a GUI that you have at least 128mbs. We had Redhat 7.2 running on a Duron 800 with 128mbs of ram and even that was slow occasionally. If your going to be running something less advanced with no GUI then you should be fine with a Pentium 166.
The other big consideration you are going to need to take into consideration is hard drive space if you want a full desktop environment and all the programs you need your going to need at least 2-3gbs of free hard drive space just for the programs. You can fit Linux onto around 300mbs of hard drive however this wont be a lot more then a console system. If you install the maximum number of packages on some distributions then you could be looking at 4-6gbs of hard drive space.
This is fine if you have a large hard drive but for people will smaller drives you will either have to watch what you install or invest in a more up to date hard drive. Linux should automatically pick up and configure most PCI cards including sound cards, graphic cards and network adapters. The only problems I had was configuring TV cards, Mandrake configured it automatically for me and it worked first time while SuSE and Redhat left me to configure it for myself. ISA cards may need some configuring however it is possible to get most hardware working in Linux.
By now you should have a good idea to what Linux is and the different Distributions available. However you may still be a stuck as to how to get Linux and where to get it. Here you have a couple of options, you can either buy one of the packages, download it or borrow off someone else. Prices for Linux normally range from about ?30 upwards and you normally get good value for money.
For instance the SuSE 8 package for ?40 gives you 7 CDs, a DVD, 1 boot floppy disk, 1 modules disk, 1 large reference manual, an applications manual, a basics manual and a certain amount of support. Now considering this package gives you all the software you will need to do most things in Linux it is great value for money. If you were in windows and paid for all this software it would come into excess ?1500 and that?s not including the server software.
Your other option when buying Linux is just to buy the copied CDs, quite a few shops do this and even the distributions site will probably have a service where you can just buy the CDs for around ?5-?10 (I know mandrake does). This is sometimes a good option if you want to try the distribution and you don?t have broadband. Your next option is to download the distribution, most offer this feature in something called an ISO image, this is quite handy as you only have to download 1 file per cd then using a cd writer burn the file to the CD.
The first CD is normally bootable so there is no need for annoying boot disks. If you are downloading and installing for a first time I suggest you use Linux-Mandrake as its very simple to use and easy to download. The one disadvantage to downloading is that your going to need at least a broadband connection to download these files as you will be downloading at least 600mbs per cd. A good place to look for ISO images is http://www.linuxiso.org as it has a wide collection of a lot of the distributions latest releases.
Finally if you know a friend who has Linux then most probably you can borrow their copy. This isn?t illegal as it would be if you were using Windows. If this fails see if your area has a local Linux user group and ask if anyone would be willing to do you a copy of the distribution your interested in.
Today Apple announced the launch of their latest operating system for the Mac computer named OS X 10.2. The launch date also collides with the 7 year anniversary of the launch of Windows 95 which was the most extravagant product launch in computing history. The new OS is to go head to head with Microsoft?s Windows XP though it is more of a catch up then making many leaps ahead of their biggest rival. Mac users are excited about this latest launch however I'm unsure if the latest OS will be enough to woo customers from a declining pc market from the pc to the more expensive Mac.
This news comes just after Gateway computers have announced its all in one computer the profile 4 which is going into direct competition with the stylish imac, which can be seen by the similar pricing plan. What makes the profile 4 different to the profile 3 computers is that the profile 4 is now upgradeable. Experts are still skeptic as apple only have a 5% market share in the desktop computer market while Microsoft occupy a large percentage of over 92%. Apple have added many new features into OS X 10.2 including a instant messenger using the aol network and a new mail client, however these features are already in windows XP so apple do not have many unique selling points to market their new OS.
Apple has also announced that they are renaming their iTools service to .Mac in another bid to compete with Microsoft?s .net tools. Microsoft announced this week that they were launching msn for Mac in an attempt to go against rumours that they are not as committed to Mac as they were previously. Either way Apple still have a long way to go before they can catch a larger proportion of the desktop market. Personally Macs are too expensive for myself to afford so there wont be one on my christmas list.
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