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What makes Ed angry, what makes him smile

Beyond AirPort: Looking forward to easier computing

Apple's AirPort Base Station
Apple's AirPort Base Station  
Ed Curran

(CNN) -- I hate computers.

Now, don't get me wrong. I spend more time with my computer than I do with my wife. Or, at least it seems that way. My computer is one of the greatest gadgets I own and plays a role in nearly everything I do in business.

During my week I use computers from Apple, Dell, Gateway, Compaq and Silicon Graphics. My career is filled with computers, from my first Commodore VIC-20 to my latest Apple G4. I love computers because of their power. They're certainly among man's greatest inventions.

  QUICK VOTE
graphic Do you agree with Ed that computers, while great, are going to be better when they're easier?

Yeah. Enough with the complexity.
Maybe. Some days they seem remarkable. Then other days ...
No. Considering the stupendous tasks they accomplish, computers aren't too complicated at all.
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But I hate computers because of their complexity. I dream of a day on which computers don't crash, a day when computers don't look like computers, a day on which the nation's radio airwaves don't have to be clogged with listeners asking highly technical questions on computer talk shows.

There are plenty of very good computer shows. But except for the cutting-edge hobbyist, computers should be as reliable and easy to use as your telephone. Could you imagine having a talk show that tells you how to use the telephone?

Apple computers make me smile but the company makes me angry. I've used one since 1987. Of all the computers I use during my week, I use Apples more than anything else. For my purposes, they've worked better than anything else.

Apple makes me angry because they have a computer and an operating system that are really great. They've innovated so much, they've changed the way the computer works, they've changed the way the computer looks. Apple has made it easy for us to do desktop publishing, desktop audio and desktop video. But they have so little market share.

That's what makes me angry.

What makes me smile is when Apple comes out with something like their new Titanium PowerBook G4. What a sexy machine. Once I try it out I'll tell you about it. But it's another design home run for Apple.

"I'm writing this piece on an Apple iBook that belongs to my kids. When I'm done I'll e-mail it, wirelessly, without ever plugging into a telephone line. I can take the computer anywhere in the house, plop down in a chair and get onto the Internet. I can take the computer into the backyard during the summer and sit at the patio table while I'm on the Internet. "

Another thing that makes me smile is when Apple comes out with something that works as well as the AirPort, which is Apple's wireless local area network (LAN) system. As everyone talks about networking the computers in your home, or your small business, Apple's been doing it quite well with AirPort.

I bought the system when it first came out and just love it. We have a desktop computer on the system and a laptop.

  MESSAGE BOARD
graphic You can always tell a person's operating system -- but you cannot tell him much. Most of us are fiercely loyal to our OS preferences, even if it means a love-hate relationship -- as is reflected in some of Ed Curran's commentary today.Tell us about your OS winners and losers.
 

The AirPort Base Station is a flying saucer-looking unit that you place somewhere in your home or business. It plugs into the phone line or, preferably, into a DSL line or cable modem. The AirPort can handle speeds of up to 11 megabits per second.

Elsewhere in your home or business is your computer, equipped with an AirPort card. The cool thing is that you can have up to 10 computers on the same system, sharing the same Internet connection. Ten computers, one base station, wirelessly connected within a range of 150 feet.

I'm writing this piece on an Apple iBook that belongs to my kids. When I'm done I'll e-mail it, wirelessly, without ever plugging into a telephone line. I can take the computer anywhere in the house, plop down in a chair and get onto the Internet. I can take the computer into the backyard during the summer and sit at the patio table while I'm on the Internet.

"The whole point of this column is to make you aware of one technology that works well, ties together your home or business computers and moves us one tiny step closer to a day when your computer will be as easy to use as your telephone."

It's simple, it's reliable, and it's a step in the right direction when it comes to friendly computing. If your home isn't wired for a network, the AirPort offers a simple way to get connected. You can have all your computers on the Internet -- you can network your business computers -- at a pretty good price. The AirPort Base Station is $300 and an AirPort card for each computer is $99.

I celebrate technology. Don't write to me about Windows vs. Mac vs. Linux vs. Godzilla. Don't write to me about the other wireless networking systems that are available. I know they're there and make an excellent addition to the Windows computers you may use. I'll eventually get around to going wireless with my Dell (which is also an excellent computer).

The whole point of this column is to make you aware of one technology that works well, ties together your home or business computers and moves us one tiny step closer to a day when your computer will be as easy to use as your telephone.

Ed Curran has covered the world of high-tech for more than a dozen years and is the publisher of Technogadgets® -- www.technogadgets.com. In addition to his weekly column here at CNN.com/career, watch for Curran's reports on CNN television.

[watercooler]



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