Moved.

20Sep08

Here is a non-boring exerpt of the post: We have moved to a new blog at tbtech.info.

For those that don’t already know it or who have been given a link to <i>this</i> site, we have moved. Quite some time ago, we discontinued posts on tbtechblog.wordpress.com and continued blogging on our own domain at tbtech.info.

Tom and myself, did not get around to changing our previous blogs, both this one and our previous blog at http://tbtechblog.blogspot.com, so that readers could find out the address of the new blog without hassle. This blog post has been posted so that you know this.

-Will



Although we’re not quite finished, please check out www.tbtech.info – our new address – for all the latest content! We appreciate your input!

TB Tech - HP Pavilion dv3021tx

HP is on a winning streak with its consumer notebooks at the moment – its 14.1” Pavilion dv6000 Series models have proven to be real winners. We haven’t heard much from the 13.3” and 15.4” front, so does HP’s neglect in these screen sizes mean that they’ve forgotten how to build a mainstream laptop? HP’s new 13.3” dv3021tx should answer that question.

Aesthetic

The answer to laptop design, at least for HP, seems to be “gloss and glass”, as we’ve seen on many occasions with its 14.1” notebooks. If anything, the dv3021tx is glossier than anything we’ve seen from HP yet – every tangible surface is covered in something lacquered.

HP’s love of smooth surfaces certainly isn’t a bad thing – in my tests, I have found HP’s glossy material to be far more durable that easily-scratched matte finishes. Design-wise, of course, the designs employed by HP are also far more interesting and pleasing to the casual eye than generic PC styles offered by some competitors. This quality, thankfully, continues through the notebook, with above-average fit and finish.

TB Tech - HP Pavilion dv3021tx

Upon meeting the notebook the eye is drawn in by the minimal, but still visible, “iron mesh” pattern adorning the lid – this design wraps around each surface, and gives the user a sense that a consistent theme has been used, rather than a confusing jumble of different colours and textures.

Opening the lid reveals a full-size keyboard that has been neatly tucked into a rather compact frame. The laptop isn’t especially thin; however, its two-tone, silver and black design thread keeps the profile good-looking. Surrounded by yet another glossy black frame, lies the 13.3”, 1280×800 (WXGA resolution) ‘BrightView’ glass display.

Beneath this are HP’s popular touch-activated entertainment shortcut keys, which seems now to be the permanent home of the laptop’s volume control. While this is novel and intuitive to use when you have a clear line of sight to the notebook, it is difficult to alter the volume when you are feeling in the dark.

To combat this problem, HP have two counter-measures. The first is more obvious – the touch keys are illuminated when you touch their black bar, aiding your fingers which may be in the dark (during a movie or red-eye flight, for example). The second is perhaps more practical when you are using the machine as a portable entertainment hub – HP bundles a tiny remote with the laptop that conveniently slides into the ExpressCard slot.

Progressing further, the ‘interior’ features of the notebook are primarily a chrome silver affair. The palm rests, touchpad and keyboard surround are all shiny, reflective silver, coated in the lid’s “iron mesh” pattern. While this looks terribly alluring, after even light use, the fingerprint cover over these frequently utilised surfaces becomes almost unbearable to the clean-freak’s eye.

The problem of fingerprints has become an increasing concern of mine with HP’s burgeoning love affair with glossy textures, and I make it a rule to take a screen-cleaning cloth with me when I take the laptop out. Travelling around leaves its dirty mark on this notebook in particular.

Features and functionality
TB Tech - HP Pavilion dv3021tx
While it may be relatively compact, the dv3021tx packs in many important features for the power user. What impressed us was that many of the features that were incorporated that can so often detract from the form of the notebook have been included with style on the HP.

A full complement of ports on any laptop larger than 12.1” is a necessity in our books. The dv3021tx, as with HP’s older models, didn’t disappoint, but HP has explored a few more combination-port possibilities on this model, which we feel have just that feel to them – like they are being trialled.

To illustrate this point – this notebook has three USB ports, which is good for this size. However, the second port on the left side is a combination USB / eSATA port (either a USB or eSATA device can be used in that port). While this is a likable concept, it isn’t quite as solid as a standalone port, and using either type of device in that port required a small amount of ‘jiggling’ to remove it.

Another quirky feature included on the dv3021tx is a removable DVD drive. The optical drive can be removed, reducing the weight on the notebook, and covered by a similar glossy silver cover.

Peculiarities aside, the dv3021tx is well stocked. Previously mentioned were its three USB ports (2x on the left, and 1x on the right), and DVD drive; also to be found are VGA and HDMI-out ports, a memory card reader supporting the popular formats, a Kensington Lock port, and both Ethernet and 56k modem ports.

Fitting in all of these, plus a side-mounted fan outlet to stop the notebook overheating on a lap or bed, has taken up all of both sides.

The back, as is becoming more common, is devoid of features, save for the hinge.

TB Tech - HP Pavilion dv3021tx

The front edge is home to the audio ports. HP has once again integrated two headphone jacks, which readers should know pleases me greatly. One microphone port can be found on the left of these. While locating the audio slots on the front edge is convenient for casual headphone-based use, out and about, it’s not so convenient for use at home, when you might be tied up to some large external speakers and thick cords. I found that these cords needed to snake all around my desk.

HP’s ‘QuickPlay’ entertainment control bar has become a consistent feature in the Pavilion line, and they become more accurate and intuitive each time. As discussed in the Aesthetic section, it can be a toss-up as to its accuracy in darkened environments. The bundled entertainment remote, which really is tiny, fixes the problem of fiddling for movie controls in the dark, and when unneeded it stows conveniently into the ExpressCard slot.

A combination of HP’s tinkering and Service Pack One have eased the slight pain of Windows Vista, and to be honest, it’s not too bad on this notebook. A decent specification level means that the system is fast and quick in most actions, and it was always very easy to get work done.

The dv3021tx is what Microsoft calls ‘Office-Ready’, meaning that HP has included a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office. Utilising this trial, the dv3021tx was able to open and edit foreign Word documents cleanly and quickly as well as compile complicated Excel macros.
HP has added a number of its own programs which come bundled with the notebook. While the majority of these add-ons are what is being labelled “bloatware”, a closer look yields that some of these programs can significantly help the user in updating the computer and Windows as well as backup and recover.

HP’s Software Update utility pleased me greatly. As a long-time fan of Mac OS X’s Software Update, a fast, small and clean application to offer easy updating of the operating system is something which I find to be a sign of a decent job by the manufacturer. And a decent job it was – important updates to both Vista and HP’s own PhotoSmart suite were delivered with ease.

Performance
My demonstration unit of the HP dv3021tx came equipped the following specifications:

Processor Intel Core 2 Duo T8300
Clock Speed 2.4 GHz
Hard Drive 320GB @ 5400 RPM
Memory 2GB RAM (DDR2)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS
Graphics Memory 256 MB

For its compact form factor, the dv3021tx packs quite a punch in the productivity stakes – its 2.4GHz dual-core Intel processor has the machine up and running quickly and multitaking – even browsing, editing Word and Excel documents, and running Photoshop CS3 – is more than tolerable.

The ever-expanding hard drive capacities of laptops continues to impress me, and HP has squeezed over three hundred gigabytes into this model. Formatting and the recovery partition reduce this to just over 290GB. However, even for power users this level should be huge.

Although a GeForce 8400M from NVidia is included, with 256MB of graphics memory, mobile gamers should opt for a dedicated gaming notebook. This graphics card is excellent for graphic-intensive productivity applications, and is excellent in the CAD realm (tested with Google SketchUp), gaming is not a high point of the dv3021tx.

Intensive games can usually run without a hitch on medium to high settings.

What is important, though, is all of the usual features of the dv3021tx are fast. Booting up from cold (at least for Windows) is quick, applications are managed quickly by the processor, commonly used services never require waiting, and, of course, working on the go never leaves you staring at an hourglass.

The bottom line

TB Tech - HP Pavilion dv3021tx
If you are in the market for a fashion-conscious, but still very capable 13.3” Windows notebook, the new dv3021tx from HP is just another in a long line of fairly impressive, and good quality machines from that maker. It’s hard to specifically not like the laptop – collectively, it is very appealing to the casual user who needs to work with large Office documents and some intensive applications. Quality, though, comes at a small premium over competitors, and you should hope to find this HP around A$1800.


Please be aware that the latest TB Tech content is now posted at our new address – tbtech.info!

As those close to me know, Hong Kong is a favourite destination of mine – my family and I make a point to visit every two years at about this time.

It’s that time again now, and I’ll be away from Sydney for 10 days. Sounds good, because the weather here in Sydney is pretty dismal, and not to mention quite freezing, so a warmer climate will be welcome!

I don’t travel to Hong Kong just to marvel at the natural beauty, modern architecture and colonial beauties; I travel to buy tech, most of the time.

A shopping list

The main item I am looking for on this trip is a nice, beginner’s DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, to replace my now 2-year-old (HK-bought) Sony DSC-H5. The H5 has been a terribly faithful and well-performing snapper, but now that I am moving past the bounds of point-and-shoot models, I am hoping to find a good price (out at Mong Kok) on an EOS 400D or 450D from Canon, or perhaps something from Nikon, not sure.

My mother is also on the lookout for a slim and light camera – I thought one of Canon’s excellent PowerShot point-and-shoots would suffice. Any advice there?

A travel agenda

I leave this morning at 11:30am by taxi to the airport. This will be the first time that we fly Virgin Atlantic to Hong Kong – each other time we have flown with Hong Kong’s flag carrier, Cathay Pacific. So, this should be quite an experience.

While there, we hope to travel around the island, perhaps further into the mainland than just Kowloon, and generally have a relaxing time.

I return to Sydney on the 16th.

What to look forward to

Rest assured I will be photoblogging on my Flickr account – and posting the best shots (as well as some HK-related content) on the new blog at tbtech.info. I hope you guys like them!


Bookmark tbtech.info – our new site is looking great and it’s where you can find all the latest information.

Coldplay Profile.png

Coldplay, that little English alt-rock group from London, led by Chris Martin, has enjoyed a lot of success with their light, indie style over the past decade.

Their last album, X&Y, was recorded four years ago – and fans have been waiting for an update. That update, in the form of a full new album, titled Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends will arrive later this month.

Digital downloads matter

Unlike their previous albums, Coldplay and their label, EMI, had to seriously consider the digital download revolution as the foremost form of the (legal) distribution of the much-hyped new album. This is what they have done – although Viva la Vida will be sold in record stores, as in the past, the album will have a few exclusive tracks available on the digital version of the album. This digital version will use the iTunes store as its download medium.

Viva la Vida Preorder.pngWhile other digital music download alternatives like Amazon MP3 have tried – and succeeded – to win over the users of iTunes, and often offer much higher value per track, the iTunes Store is still the best way for artists and record labels to bring both upcoming and established performers to the global scene. Apple’s integrated FairPlay system makes it difficult – albeit not impossible – for end-users to pirate the music, the entire purchase to download to portable listening experience is tightly integrated (with Apple’s iPod) and not only is the buying process unbelievably easy, but somewhat rewarding for the listener.

And with millions of users, implementing a well-designed, streamlined digital download experience, right within one of the most downloaded pieces of lifestyle software on the planet means that the music – the point of the exercise – will reach these millions of ears. Stores like iTunes offer instant gratification for users and entice them into buying more, right now. The record labels have started to realise this and build hype by limiting release on downloadable music and offer bonuses for using a computer, not a physical CD.

Good design in music works

Viva la Vida Ad in Frame.png

Whilst EMI and Coldplay have made the right choice in using iTunes as the premier source for Viva la Vida, the label is counting on the new album being a big success, with Radiohead leaving the label recently, and Robbie Williams, the other star male act, “on strike”. Therefore, a highly appealing advertising campaign and upbeat, theme-based design was essential for the band.

Even in digital music, the accompanying album art plays a big part in leaving the user satisfied with the music. Devices like the Apple iPhone and iPod touch centralise album art and make sure the user focusses on the art in front of the track they are listening to. Album art communicates a message about the music – it should be enjoyed, as it is on physical music media like CDs and LPs.

The album art for Viva la Vida borrows the Latin American themes gently introduced by the music. The major image behind the white, thick, scrawled ‘Viva la Vida’ print on the cover is the 1830 work La Liberté Guidant Le Peuple (Liberty Leading The People), by Eugène Delacroix. The image illustrates the French Revolution, but the scene seems anything but European at a glance – it is darker, dirtier – the vivid tricolour looks out of place in such an unclean scene. Marianne, the symbol of France, leads the struggle.

Possibly hinted at by the album art is the perception by the younger generation that ‘retro’ ideas and products are now ‘cool’. Such a work, once considered by the young to be a boring old painting, has taken a whole new light when used in this unreal sense.

Coldplay iTunes Ad.png

Advertising has been key in generating much of the non-Coldplay-listening public’s interest. Coldplay and EMI have bonded with Apple, as with the iTunes partnership, to create a stunning television advertisement in the simple, but unbeatable style of previous iPod and iTunes ads. There is a distinctive Mac OS X Leopard theme to the ad, though, with vivid purples, a pillar of the latest OS release from Cupertino, featuring rapidly. Rather than using silhouettes for Chris Martin and friends in the band, the distinctive bodily features of each member, and their instrument, are clearly visible.

This ad is captivating. It features the recurring chorus from the titular track, Viva la Vida (New Edit), and ends with a simple branding from Coldplay and the text ‘Exclusively available on iTunes’.

I do hope Coldplay is as successful as they should be with this album – EMI, the band, and their associates have produced a brilliant product. Of course, the music, to a fan, is sublime – but absolutely key elements – creating a streamlined digital download experience, utilising good design, and creating a sensational ad campaign – should prove to be the backbone of continual success for any artist – even the music industry – in the rush of the digital revolution.


Finishing touch

In an ever-changing, ever-improving market, makers of consumer notebooks increasingly have to keep up in two different areas: of course, the central technologies area, to ensure their model is as good or better than the next competitor in the area of performance, but, as we have seen especially in the past few years, the area of aesthetic appeal and good design.

I’ll take this time to say that I favour Apple’s design. This has probably been recognised in a few other posts, but I do find the look of current-gen MacBooks, MacBook Airs, and MacBook Pros to be very appealing. This is a blog, and I have an opinion.

I may favour Macs for their design credentials, but it has been very interesting to see how PC makers have attempted to keep long-time Windows users from switching to ‘the other side’.

I’ve reviewed a few HP laptops now, and I’ve found them to utilise a variety of design techniques and fairly individual finishes to keep consumers on board. Just this evening I received HP’s new 13″ (now a rare size for HP) dv3000 Pavilion notebook. It’s far more sophisticated than the garish dv2800 Artist Edition just past, and, at that golden screen size and weight, I already consider it to be a viable competitor for the MacBook on design grounds.

Aaron Kok (aaron_kok on Flickr), Taiwan Press Club

A look at the HP dv3000

A very glossy black and silver theme is used on the dv3000, and, instead of pulling the eye straight in and yelling “look at me!”, it is a cool, calming look that looks and feels expensive.

From a glance across the room, the colours look just that – black and silver. However, getting close, you can admire the meticulous work that HP conducts to please the user only; a touch that isn’t necessary and probably costs HP more than they need to pay. However, seeing an individual finish, pattern, or texture is luxurious and the user will love it.

The dv3000 uses a crosshatch pattern. It wraps around the notebook on all of the usable, tangible surfaces. The lid, which looks solid black, is covered in a tiny, dark grey crosshatch; the keyboard surround and palm rest is a very glossy, bright silver, that is adorned with the same tiny pattern but a little more visible. It’s not obtrusive – not by any means – but it looks fantastic.

Consumers don’t want a grey box for a PC laptop, and if you don’t have an interest in Apple or it’s not viable to switch (and it is certainly not viable for many people), than something more individual is far more preferable than a generic machine.

Following HP’s lead, many other manufacturers are now looking at integrating patterns and even tangible textures into their notebooks. Flair and individualism, but not too much of it, is a step in the right direction.

————-

₁ HP dv3000 lid image: Aaron Kok, Taiwan Press Club


When Steve Jobs mentioned the fact that Australia would be among 22 countries to receive the brand new 3G iPhone ‘early’ on July 11, earlier this week at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference, it was only natural that hysteria, in some form, would ensue. It did – the reliable Australian news sources have raved about it and the snippet of news has left bloggers, Apple fans and even everyday consumers salivating.

The upgrade of Apple’s relatively popular ‘dot Mac’ service to the renamed ‘Mobile Me’ product is also a major advancement in consumer push technology, and Apple’s analogy of a push server being ‘like a cloud’ will help the masses understand how the instantaneous multi-device updates of their calendars, contacts, mail, and other files works. This is a great product, and perhaps the most innovative and new seen in the keynote.

And whilst the iPhone-centric discussion put forward by Steve and his colleagues was all well and very good, we missed out on many key products that could have added to the excitement and driven yet more sales to Apple’s first retail store in the southern hemisphere later this month.

First, though, I must talk about the iPhone.

iPhone 3G

iPhone You've Been Waiting For.png

“We’re coming up to the iPhone’s first birthday. And now, it’s time to take it to the next level”. – Steve Jobs

It did have to happen sometime. After seizing nearly 30% of the US smartphone market in its first year, the iPhone couldn’t have continued to creep up on the BlackBerry’s territory without radical changes to the way Apple worked with the cellular networking for the iPhone. 3G is a natural evolution, and really it should have been integrated a lot sooner.

What is remarkable, however, is that Apple has pretty much slashed the price of the iPhone. An 8GB model will be able to be bought (on AT&T, in the US) for US$199, or around A$210. Of course, you will pay for your data and calls every month – but so does every other smartphone user. Why is it, then, that even the base model Treo – a proper Treo, not a Centro – the 500, is nearly A$560? The base iPhone is a work of art and so much more can be done out of the box. The iPhone is now more affordable and it’s difficult to debate the value.

Form

However, Apple took its time with 3G and, as usual, it has paid off. The iPhone 3G is gorgeous – gone is the square look of the previous model and in is a far more elegant, more organic form. The face of the 3G model is arguably indistinguishable from the first-generation model but in profile, it’s clear to see that the hand-holding ergonomics have been worked on substantially.

The back of the iPhone is still prettier than the front of its competitors. The aluminium finish with its distinctive matte black strip is gone, to be replaced by a glossy finish that should ensure that both sides of your iPhone should get equally marked with finger prints. However, the features are in the right place, the camera is pretty much identical both in form and in resolution, and the branding has stayed largely the same.

The new option of a white model has been somewhat expected of Apple in the past few months, but the online community has been unsure of how Apple could implement a new colour. Now that it is available, it seems natural; the normal glossy black plastic plating on the back of the device is substituted for a white one in the 16gb model. Of course, a black model is still available in both 8gb and 16gb capacities.

Function

The upgraded software that will ship with iPhone 3G, “iPhone 2.0”, was discussed at length at the keynote by several of Steve Jobs’ subordinates. Whilst power users will notice and wonder at the new features, such as the App Store, the new scientific calculator, and the fabulous addition of Microsoft Exchange and Cisco VPN, consumers looking to pick up their first Apple smartphone will take these in their stride.

The addition of assisted GPS will make Google Maps even better on the iPhone, though, and this is something everybody should notice.

The iPhone 2.0 system looks the same – perhaps a bit glossier, with more sophisticated additions and much more fluid networking capabilities. This phone will function like no other, just as its predecessor did. It is an excellent phone which really will bring ‘happiness’ through exploration and use.

Mobile Me.png
The excellent integration of the new Mobile Me service will prove invaluable to me, and certainly others. The ability to immediately have changes made on any of your devices – the iPhone, Mac, PC – is truly amazing. To know that you can change a contact’s telephone number from your iPhone, on the road, and know that your computer at home will have just updated too is fantastic. At the current price of A$139 a year, it’s excellent value.

You can store 20gb of your things – pictures, files, mail, calendars, and contacts and access them all in a beautiful Web 2.0 application from anywhere you can find internet or a public computer. This is just brilliant, and it’s possibly my favourite new feature from WWDC.

——————

So, what’s wrong?

Don’t get me wrong – the mass of iPhone announcements at WWDC has made me very pleased and I know that I will pick up a white model in July. However, I did expect to see a broader range of previews. Instead of flying into a full-on discussion for every product, you can find a quick summary for each.

Cinema Displays

Come on, Apple – where are the updated models? The current Cinemas are pushing five years without a proper refresh. While they are still beautiful, responsive models which will satisfy consumers and professionals alike it is time for something new. With displays like the Dell Crystal pushing the boundaries of good display design, Apple needs to pick up the pace to keep their spot in this prevalent market.

Refreshed notebooks

While Apple slams in an updated processor, a bigger hard drive and some more memory into (most) of its laptops every so often, the time for a major refresh of the MacBook and the MacBook Pro is drawing close. Many people expected this to happen at WWDC but clearly Apple has been a little bit preoccupied with squeezing a 3G transponder into that tiny shell.

The MacBook Pro is getting a bit desperate. It is still an impossibly beautiful product, but its appearance is essentially the same as the PowerBook G4 that came before it, making the design, again, more than four years old.

The MacBook could also use a change – maybe a more environmentally-friendly aluminium-and-glass casing to match the rest of the range. However, recent news has made it clear that Apple isn’t dropping the white glossy plastic look any time soon.

Regional iTunes pay video services

The UK iTunes store has just opened its TV show / movie section, allowing Mac, Apple TV, PC, iPhone and iPod touch users in the UK to rent or buy movies and watch movies and TV shows on their devices. For what it is worth, the expanded iTunes product lineup is cheap and I can only hope to be able to do this in Australia soon.

Think about this: in Australia, we have no Netflix-type service to rent movies over the television – if Apple could get in first and allow consumers to extremely easily rent and watch movies in high-definition over their Apple TV box, you could be sure that many, many people would jump on the Apple, and Mac bandwagon. We need this here in Australia. Bring it, Apple.

——————

I expected a bit more from WWDC, but what it did bring – the iPhone 3G, the iPhone 2.0 software, and of course, Mobile Me – was first-class Apple product. If only, if only, there had been a bit more diversity, and I would have been even more satisfied.


TB Tech Blog - MacBook

Using a Mac, when everybody around you is using a PC and the very institution your work for or learn from has little or no support for the operating system can be difficult. However, Apple’s advance to far more reliable hardware, the myriad of quality, often free learning software out there and a little passion from the user can make being the odd one out very tantalising indeed.

To put this post in context, my school has an entirely PC-centric network which uses hundreds of broadcasters to allow campus-wide wireless networking that allows access to the internet, internal servers, networked e-mail, and monitoring software, all wirelessly. The most common machines are Toshiba Portege and Satellite Pro notebooks and Portege tablets; I have found these devices to be utterly unreliable, to have exceptionally low battery lives, and, although it doesn’t matter so much, are actually quite ugly.

Not to mention, running a Mac system at home and managing a PC for school use is a real chore – all those Pages documents created on the Mac must either be exported to *.doc or *.pdf, put on a memory stick and transferred, as the two operating systems still pretty much refuse to talk to each other. Rather, Windows refuses to let Mac talk to it.

So, is it that difficult to break from the norm and use Mac hardware and software, without Boot Camp, or a virtual machine, within a network that, for the most part, doesn’t want to “talk” to Macs? In my case, yes, with a little help.

Hey! The network won’t let me access the ‘net!

This is a problem that Mac users encounter frequently. The first thing is to change your Mac’s computer name to the organisation’s standard (on your Windows machine, go to Control Panel > System and you’ll find your computer name. It’s usually long and complicated but you can usually just keep that for your Mac (go to System Preferences > Sharing to change) and you’ll be right.

In the instance that that doesn’t work, you’ll need to visit your IT department. Don’t be offended if you get a harsh treatment, I like to call most IT people ‘Macphobes’. However, show them your computer name and they’ll usually fix things up or simply allow you onto the network via some other means.

What about corporate/school email?

Apple’s own Mail.app works fine with Microsoft Outlook setups. Just look into your MS Outlook preferences and copy the setup for your corporate account and set up a new account in Mail.app with the same preferences. You should be good to go. If not, it’s another trip to I.T….

Okay, I’m on the ‘net, but what about that Excel spreadsheet my colleague sent me?

You’ve got two choices for managing Microsoft Office projects in a PC environment. Your IT people, and probably yourself as well, will like Microsoft Office for Mac Professional 2008. This program matches up with the Windows versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

The interface of MS Office for Mac is pretty similar to Office Windows 2007 however there are a few quirks that you’ll have to work with. For example, Excel for Mac doesn’t quite mesh with complicated macro-laden files that you may be working on, and that could be a problem.

If you really do hate everything Microsoft, then you should have a look at Apple iWork ’08. While this program will create far better looking documents, spreadsheets and presentations, you’ll need to have the passion to go an extra step for your PC-toting colleagues’ sakes. Instead of simply saving the project and emailing it off, you’ll have to open up Pages (equivalent of Word), Numbers (Excel) or Keynote (PowerPoint), open your project, hit File and Export and choose the right file format. Just choose the first option in most cases, which is the MS Office format.

Perhaps the most useful export feature in iWork is the ability to create PDFs without having to use Adobe Reader or anything like that.

Hmm… the office uses a VGA projector, and I can’t find a VGA outlet on my Mac.

That’s right. Apple moved away from VGA a few years ago and are now using the higher-quality DVI output. On a MacBook, that’s on the left, and is a Mini-DVI port. On a MacBook Pro, it’s the top port on the right side and is a full-DVI slot.

The MacBook Pro comes with a handy adapter for using the MacBook Pro’s DVI port with VGA. However, if you’re a MacBook owner, you’ll have to buy the adapter separately, which, if I recall, is US$29 or A$35.

My Mac is getting a bit knocked around on the train ride home – what should I do to protect it?

Invest in a case, of course! You can always buy a generic PC case (13″ for MacBooks, 15″ or 17″ for MacBook Pros), but if you can, find a Mac-specific case because they’ll often have handy slots that are the perfect size for the laptop and its accessories, like the power brick, remote, and display adapters, as well as other goodies like an iPod and pens.

Belkin makes some relatively stylish Neo cases that are popular among Mac users; these are good value too and they’ll last.

I favour Toffee Australian-leather Mac cases; they look fantastic and offer a decent level of protection. I use a Toffee sling every day and it hasn’t let me down. It’s also very, very comfortable across the shoulder and chest.

I hope you’ll find the inspiration here to switch away from your trouble-causing PC. I’m not saying that it’s necessary – no, many new PCs such as HP’s Pavilion 14″ line and Dell’s XPS series are great-quality models – but if you prefer Macs, they’re now pretty suitable for the working environment as well as at home.