Computer ArtsFeature

I want that one

If you';e the type of person who dribbles over new software and constantly updates your kit, whether you need it or not, it's hard to justify the expense.

When new stuff comes out for my Mac, I want it, even if I don't need it - or know I can't afford it for that matter. Whenever there's the slightest whiff of a system upgrade in OS X's Software Update panel, I check it every five minutes, and I'm proud to declare that I have one of the most up-to-date systems around. I always have the latest version of my core software: Adobe CS, Macromedia MX, Microsoft Office, even if that means file conflicts with users who are more leisurely about their upgrades.

It's the same with hardware. When the "cheese-grater-from-space" G5 came out, I wanted one, even though my G4 was doing a perfectly good job. So I invented an excuse. I announced to my wife, who is also a designer, that she could have the G4 and I would have a shiny new G5, because... I want one. "Are you actually dribbling?" she replied.

Needless to say, I got my way, just as I did with the first generation iPod, an iBook and wireless networking for my home. I should point out in my defence, though, that I do actually use these things. I always find some way of fitting them into my work flow.

This is why I'm normally in a state of great excitement when Steve Jobs makes a keynote speech, because you can bet your bottom dollar there will be new products or software announced. This time it was Macworld in San Francisco (or iPodWorld as one commentator ruefully put it, indicating Apple's change of focus) and the time difference meant I could watch events unfold on my Mac at work. There was no live video stream, but I could read a transcript of what was happening on the Mac News Network.

And what a keynote speech it was! Updates to iLife, a new iWork software collection, featuring new application Pages, Final Cut Express HD, Mac mini and the iPod shuffle. I wanted them all!

CHOICES, CHOICES

The one I'm most likely to get, however, is the iPod shuffle. It's cheap, no bigger than a packet of chewing gum and my first generation iPod has finally bitten the dust due to overuse. Before MacWorld I had been toying with the idea of an iPod mini, but my experience with my older iPod was that I preferred to create a play list for the day and just play that. A fancy onscreen user interface was wasted on me.

I use Microsoft Word to open documents sent to me by email, but I prefer the simplicity of TextEdit and will often attempt to open Word files with that if I can. If I need something with a bit more visual oomph, I use InDesign. I can't help it; it's the designer in me. Trying to design something in Word is anathema to me, and I have to go for a lie down. However Pages looks very sleek indeed, and together with an upgrade to Keynote, it can only be a matter of time before I rush to the Apple Store on Regent Street and slap my credit card on the counter.

What I want most of all though, and what I'm finding hardest to justify, is the new Mac mini. We have Macs coming out of our ears, and I can just imagine my wife's face as I suggest we re-mortgage the house so I can buy some more gadgetry to clog up our home. But I really want one. I know that Windows users making a cheap leap from PCs to Macs are the real target audience, but plenty of Mac users will want one, too. My friend Rich rang me up the other day to see if he could use one as an email server. That's how keen he was to get one! I've made a mental note to try that excuse.

But budgets can only stretch so far, and at the risk of my wife's eyes narrowing and shooting me with death rays, I think the Mac mini will stay just out of reach. Unless I pour coffee in the back of her G4 tower...

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