Five Apple products I actually like

Five Apple products I actually like

Summary: Given all of David's criticisms of Apple over the years, he's often asked if there are any Apple products he actually likes. We were surprised to find out the answer is "yes." Here are five products he says he quite likes.


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  • Apple TV

    Let's count my Apple TV's, shall we? There are two in the gym (an original first-generation unit and a second-gen hockey puck). There's a third Apple TV attached to the entertainment center.

    I hacked the first-gen unit and installed XBMC on it. We use it to watch video and play tunes from our media tank. I use it when on the treadmill, but I tend to like quiet when lifting. The second-gen unit in the gym is tuned to my wife's Netflix account, and she watches that when exercising.

    I've been persuaded not to hack the current-gen Apple TV in the media center rack, especially since I have a nice XBMC-running Windows 8 machine already in the rack.

    I don't watch much iTunes video on the media center Apple TV, but my wife and I use it constantly to watch Netflix. So far, the very best Netflix interface we've seen is on the Apple TV. For ninety-nine bucks and a Netflix subscription, it's a heck of a lot of entertainment that's hard to beat.

    Product page: Apple TV

  • Sixth generation iPod nano

    While Apple started shipping the seventh-gen iPod nano back around November, it's the sixth generation unit that is truly a win. With all the discussion recently about wearable computing, it seems Apple has had a sweet little wearable computing device since 2010 — and has since discontinued it.

    There were two big wins for the sixth generation nano. First, it was small and had a nice little color display, so you could see where you were and what you were playing. It was the same size as the old shuttles, but with a screen. But the truly big win of the nano was it had a clip. You could easily clip it to your clothes without needing to allocate a pocket.

    My wife has one of these (and got me one for my birthday last year), and she wears it constantly. She hooks into Audible and has listened to a ton of books, all while getting things done around the house and office.

    It's not a mistake that Apple innovated on the nano and came out with a new model. It's just a mistake that they removed the clip, while, bizarrely, keeping the far more dysfunctional shuttles in the lineup.

    Product page: new generation nano (not the one I like)

    Photo by: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic

  • iPad mini

    I've talked a lot over the years about how to decide between full-sized tablets and reasons not to buy a new iPad.

    Even though we have a first generation and third generation iPad, I don't really like the product. I don't use it all that often, and when I do, it's usually as a helper in the studio. I don't get nearly the productivity benefits out of it that some of my ZDNet colleagues do.

    Even so, when the iPad mini came out, I bought one. I figured that if I was going to write about the darned thing, I ought to use it.

    And, guess what? I like it. No one was more surprised than I was. People were complaining left and right about the iPad mini's lack of a Retina display, but it's never bothered me. Now, let me be clear here: my wife and I both have Nexus 7s (which we love) and Kindle Fires (she uses it, I don't). So adding the iPad to the mix seemed, frankly, overkill.

    But the fact is, it works and it works well. It's all about the size. It's easy to use as a scrap of paper (I tied Penultimate to Evernote), it makes a great bed-reader, it's handy to bring into the studio, it doesn't take up too much space, it's light, and it doesn't require a separate briefcase to pack when going out. The full-sized iPad, by contrast, is like a small ultrabook once you add a cover or a keyboard.

    The iPad mini is just exactly what a seven-inch tablet is meant to be: a replacement for the small, convenient notepads we've all had and loved. The nice thing is that all my iOS software also runs on the iPad mini, so it's pretty much grab and go.

    There's an iOS device I actually quite like. I'm as shocked as you.

    Product page: iPad mini

Topic: Apple


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Interesting. I find using Windows to be like

    suffering death by a thousand paper cuts. What do you find a tedious chore about OS X? To be fair, I'll list some of the stuff that annoys me about Windows.

    1. Too many prohibited characters in a file name.
    2. Horrible font rendering (if you use any font other than the approved MS fonts, you get horrible letter distortion).
    3. Menus tied to apps. It forces me to have document windows larger than I need them to be just to see all the menu/buttons, etc.
    4. Poor extended character support. If I want to insert a trademark symbol, or a copyright symbol, or an em dash, it's a pain.
    5. Too much 8.3. Still. After 15 years, it's STILL called winword.exe. Seriously, Microsoft? Microsoft's love affair with 8.3 file names is the whole reason we got the Start Menu in the first place, because the Programs menu is filled with 8.3 file names that are essentially non-human readable.
    6. Closing the last document window quits the app. That means I have to have at least one document open, even if I have nothing in it, just to keep the app going, otherwise, I have to launch it again.
    7. Path name limitations. If you have really deeply nested folders with long filenames, it can play havoc when you try to delete a file or access it with another program. It doesn't happen often, but when I get Path is too long, cannot move to the recycle bin and similar error messages, it's a major annoyance.
    8. Forced restarts. When an update happens and I get a message every few minutes telling me I need to restart and asking if I want to do it later. Ugh.

    There are others, but this isn't about dissing Windows. Lots of people love it. More power to them. I put those up to let you know why I find Windows annoying and to show you I'm honestly curious as to what you find a tedious chore about OS X.

    Oh, and if you mention accessing and working with network shares, I will raise my hand and shout out a loud Amen, brother!
    • Some points, yes. Others, not so much.

      Several of your points, I either agree with or have had no encounters with the aspect -- there are a few on which I would like to comment.
      8. Forced restarts -- true, but I often go for weeks without needing a forced restart. Occasionally they happen at night -- the evidence is that I have been logged out and need to log in again.
      7. Maybe so, I have some stuff buried 10 directories deep and have never had an issue with this.
      5. 8.3 names -- each OS has a method, some are more obvious than others.
      4. Extended character support -- you can assign a key combination to the ones you use often. I use ctl-o for the degree symbol, default has (c) assigned to the copyright symbol, type the character combo and it will be changed to the desired symbol. If this is a hassle for you, I cannot argue -- it is not for me.

      On your mention of "Horrible font rendering", I am curious as to what font or fonts is/are giving you difficulty. I have never installed a font and have over 1,100 available from which to choose. I find it difficult to fathom a need for another font. I would like, however, to have a nice sans-serif mono-spaced font however and not have to look at Courier.

      I disagree with one of your comments.
      6. "Closing the last document quits the app" This is not true as a Windows characteristic. For example, if you close the last document in Word or Excel you get a gray screen within the application. You can then open a document from within the app, select a new document or not as you prefer. If you have trouble with this, I suggest it is not a Windows feature but one of the particular application that you are using. I suspect some applications behave this way, however it is not a Windows behavior.

      Several of the things you mention, just do not bother me. It is certainly your prerogative to feel annoyed by them.

      I do not feel Windows is the ultimate OS by far. I use it on my workhorse PCs. Network connections are no big problem. I do tend to use the DOS prompt method of setting up permanent ones however.

      I also use Apple's OS on some of my devices. When there is trouble, an app will just close with no message. I have no idea what is wrong nor how to fix it. I will try a hard power down and restart and hope. Sometimes it works.

      Unix (and flavors) is nice in many ways. I do not feel it is quite finished yet. It has potential and may be done someday.

      Happy computing.
      • You have to understand baggins's intention

        His boss at apple marketing perceived an apple insult in the article and dispatched baggins to deflect the conversation to one about how much Windows sucks. The biggest clue?

        "this isn't about dissing Windows."

        Defensive much?
        • You opinions on what my motives may or may not

          be are totally irrelevant to my life. Seriously. I don't even give it a second thought. In fact, you are not even a blip on the radar of my life. The only time I even acknowledge your existence is when I'm killing time on the ZDNet blogs and I want some mindless entertainment.
        • I was reading a nice civil conversation about OSs,...

          and then you show up. Don't you have a bridge to hide under?
      • No need to get defensive. These are things I don't like

        about Windows. If they aren't an issue for you, fantastic.

        Regarding font rendering, it's a technology issue. Windows snaps to the pixel grid. You will always get letter distortion when using a font not optimized for screen display in Windows. Perfect example. Open a Word document, set the point size to ten point, then use a commercial font like Optima for your text. Note how the letter shapes are deformed (squashed letter a's, etc.).
      • Console App in the /Applications/Utilities folder

        Anything you ever wanted to know about anything going on in a Macintosh will be talked about in there.

        Also, I don't know if it's how I have it set up, but closing the last open documents in recent versions of Office (07, 10, and 13) tend to quit the app for me as well. CS2 Suite, OTOH, doesn't auto-close when I close a file in any of its apps.

        As for Baggins_z's arguments on Microsoft -
        1) There are lots of prohibited characters on filenames for just about any OS and file system.
        2) Until all displays are at least 225 DPI, every device and every OS will have crap font rendering. While I very much prefer OS X's greyscale anti-aliasing to that multi-color stuff in Windows (black fonts look green on my UltraSharp 27), no one does it right.
        3) There are times where the menus tied to windows make sense, and there are other times when the menus tied to the top of the screen make sense.
        5) 8.3 only shows up if you look for it. While executables are usually 8.3 (though programs going back as far as the time of Windows NT 3.5 - and possibly earlier - don't always fit in this formula), user files have been 255 characters for a while now. In fact, Mac didn't support more than 31 in a file name until OS X came along.
        7) Again, that can happen with any OS.
        8) I've yet to come across a forced restart that actually affected me playing a game on my 7 rig, which is usually what I use that computer for. I've also had about as many lockups on my Hackintosh as I've had on my 7 box; except for the brand of motherboard, they're essentially the same hardware (Wolfdale dual-cores, EP43 motherboards, 8GB 1066 DDR2, GeForce 9800+ video, and I know - it's time to update).
        • People are apparently having a hard time with the concept

          that these are MY reasons for not liking Windows. I am not attacking your judgement or opinion, so, to clarifiy:

          1. Prohibited characters. In OS X, it's the colon. That's it. I like the greater flexibility in naming files. That's MY preference. YOUR preference might be different, and that's OK>

          2. Deformed letter shapes are worse than anti-aliasing blur. That's MY preference. YOUR preference might be different, and that's OK>

          3. A global app menu is more useful and intuitive to ME. YOUR preference might be different. And that's OK.

          5. 8.3 makes the Programs folder useless to ME and forces me to use workarounds I don't like. YOUR preference might be different. And that's OK.

          7. I've never run into the problem with OS X, and have run into it with Windows. It annoys ME. It may not annoy YOU, and that's OK.

          8. Constant reminders to restart my machine annoy ME. They may not annoy YOU. And that's OK.

          Does that make it clearer that I'm talking about MY preferences and what annoys ME. My original post was a way to start a dialog with the blog author on why he thought using OS X was a chore. I don't like Windows. I have reasons. They may not be YOUR reasons, but that's OK. What I wanted from the blog author was more than "Using OS X is a chore. Because I think it is."
          • Nobody is attacking you...

            They're just discussing your points. This is, after all, a DISCUSSION BOARD (Note: Caps not meant to represent shouting or annoyance, just emphasis). Just as you wanted a dialog with David, both Champ_Kind and oterrya wanted to start a dialog with you. As for toddbottom3, you know by now to ignore him. Sometimes he posts smart things; other times, not so much.

            The fact that we all prefer different OS's is a great thing, because it means we have freedom of choice. Discussing our choices helps us learn and understand others. That way we avoid becoming LINUX GEEK, toddbottom3, Caviar Blue, Henrique Dorado, or any of the other particularly annoying fanboys.
          • A dialog

            does involve back and forth.

            I'm not surprised you dropped point 6 given that, like others, I find that complaint entirely inapplicable to any of my experiences. In fact, one of the multiple things I personally find annoying about OS is that it can require more steps to close a program than Windows. I am surprised you dropped point 4 since, while I disagree with you about it being something that makes Windows noticeably weaker than OS, it is, as you say, your subjective opinion that matters when you make choices for yourself.

            You might have to accept the fact that there is no way to demonstrate objectively that OS is more of chore to use than Windows, or vice versa (although I can point to many annoying features of specific Apple products (hello, ipad) and software (hello, itunes!) vs their competitors). Certainly neither is perfect. Even where very real weaknesses can be pointed out for one system vs another, the amount of weight people give to each "disadvantage" or "advantage" will vary. So I can say, quite objectively, that the two are DIFFERENT, and that I just prefer how things are done on Windows, and leave it at that. I suspect that whatever someone is most used to using greatly colours their prefences. Although my earliest experiences with wysiwyg personal computers were Apple and the Atari ST, I've been a Windows man for a couple decades now and still leave the Macs to my wife.

            As for the pet peeves of this article's author, I assume those can be found in more detail amongst his various articles and product reviews.
          • Sorry

            I should have said GUI computers, vs wysiwyg. Blame lack of sleep.
      • Fonts?

        Both OS's do a porr job managing fonts! But rendering fonts is an other tory Windows butchers fonts and most windows apps don't even do proportional fonts.
        And it is not about the quantity of fonts it is if they are real fonts not hacked look a likes.
        If you care about what things look like from a design perspective you simply do not use Windows.
        And the list of things to hate in both OSX and Windows is big, but OSX is much farther along than W7 in terms of constancy and UI, but W& is a big step forward (have not used W8 yet) and the whole registry thing and poorly shared libs is a bit problem with Windows.
  • Trying to think if there is a single good apple product

    I bought an extra power cable for my iphone once. It did exactly what it was supposed to so I guess that makes it a good apple product. If course it was ridiculously over priced but all apple products are.

    I know a couple people who have used osx and they both HATED it. It kept crashing and showing a spinning beach ball. I showed them how to install Windows and they were much happier. The next time they bought a computer I convinced them to buy a Toshiba.
    • A crash

      You are so full of SH**! I haven't seen a crash on even Windows in a long time but one thing Apple is not known for is crashing.
      • If you don't see one doesn't mean there isn't one

        I had noticed several crashses on my MBA when it was running Lion.
        Ram U
        • The fact that TB claims it happened is what suggests that it didn't.

    • Replace your RAM.

      That should fix some things.

      I agree with the power cable issue though.

      They're expensive and they have a tendency to fry out after a year or two.
  • Still not obsolete

    The iPod Classic could use an interface update, but it still has the capacious storage which requires neither wi-fi nor cellular contract, which makes it the anti-stress weapon of choice against stress. Neighbors can't be disturbed by it, and it readily replaces coworkers' soporific conversational attempts.
    • Funny...

      "the anti-stress weapon of choice against stress"
      I think you wrote a redundant sentence that was redundant... ;)
  • Mac Mini sounds good to me, with two exceptions ...

    I like being able to do my own repairs and upgrades. I replaced the hard drive in my stepdaughter's Dell Zino; not quite as easy as working on a tower, but the small form factor has a lot of advantages. I'm also still wedded to optical drives, which the Mac Mini has lacked for awhile now. Sure, there are very nice, small USB burners I could plug into a Mini, and one of those might serve me well enough; but there is still something about being able to upgrade my own RAM, storage and even the motherboard/CPU that I find very satisfying.