Weekend Tech Blog: Turn your Mac into a PC? And a hot new smartphone.

A new software upgrade makes it easy to use your Mac either as a Mac or a PC.  Also, like the Boeing 787, the Motorola Bionic 4G smartphone has arrived a little late but hello, beautiful.

A new software upgrade makes it easy to use your Mac either as a Mac or a PC.  Also, like the Boeing 787, the Motorola Bionic 4G smartphone has arrived a little late but hello, beautiful.

Now that the Labor Day holidays are over, the tech industry is thinking about how many luscious gadgets and software apps they can encourage you to consume. Here are two items to whet your appetite.

Parallels 7. (A note before we begin: If you’re a tech-savvy Mac owner, you probably know about this product, so apologies in advance.  If you own a Mac and just want to use your machine — and don’t want to be a technoid — this is definitely for you.) This is about a good upgrade to a terrific product for Mac computer owners called Parallels.

Before we get there, however a little Mac background is in order. You’re a Mac lover, but you’re also accustomed used to being the only Mac person in a sea of PCs.  That lack of compatibility between those two worlds caused Apple to develop Boot Camp, a startling innovation, as part of its OS-X operating system that makes it possible to run both the Apple operating system (OS) and Windows on a Mac computer. For example, if you have a PC program that you must work with, or there’s no comfortable substitute for it in the Mac software library, Boot Camp will give you that capability on your Mac.

You’ll need to buy a fully licensed version of the Windows operating system (prices start in the $80 range), and you’ll need to buy or borrow a DVD drive to install it if you have a Mac Air computer. To install it, you look for the Boot Camp utility among your Mac utilities, have your Mac and Windows operating disks at hand, and the software will guide you through installation.  It’s all very simple. 

To operate it, you simply turn on your Mac, hold down the “option” key, and, voila! You can choose which OS you want or need to work in.  When it’s in PC mode, your computer is simply a PC, and works with no compromises.

But let’s say you’re running your computer as a Mac, and there’s a file, program, or service on the PC side of the computer you wish you could have at your fingertips RIGHT NOW.  That’s where Parallels comes in.  

Instead of having to reboot your computer, you open Parallels and you can either choose to open a specific Windows program, or have a full Windows desktop to work in.  You’ll still have all Mac services available; Windows in Parallels mode looks just like any other window or browser.  It’s a powerful addition that lets you work comfortably in both worlds, if you need to work in both worlds.

I installed the new version of Parallels on my iMac — I use my computer interchangeably as a PC and a Mac — and found it works a bit faster than the previous version.  It has some other more technical refinements over the previous version and I would recommend it over the older version.  Retail cost of Parallels is about $80.

On the portable media front, the tech world is all atwitter — or Twittering — about the hot new devices coming our way this fall.  There’s the much-discussed Amazon Tablet — still NOT confirmed by Amazon that it even exists although one TechCrunch reporter claims he has actually put his hands on one. Then there’s the rumored coming of iPhone 5 either this month or next month.  You want rumors? These guys have rumors.

The last hot device in the Android phone world has actually come out, although some months after it was supposed to be coming out.  Call it the Boeing 787 of smartphones.  Anyhow, the Motorola Droid Bionic, an Android smartphone,  has finally arrived, and from all reports it appears to be a dream phone for smartphone aficionados.

If it’s speed you want, both from the phone itself as well as the phone network, the Bionic (at the moment) is at the top of the heap.  The processor, the phone’s engine is a dual-core 1Ghz  TI OMAP chip.   It runs on Verizon’s 4G LTE network, which most  reports say is the nation’s fastest network.  The Seattle area has a fully implemented 4G network, as we reported last June.  Together, the two are as powerful as most home desktop computers and a cable Internet connection.

It weighs roughly 6 ounces, has the ability to store up to 48 gigabytes between its internal memory and an SD card, has an 8-megapixel camera and can record 1080p HDTV video, and much more.  Its stock battery allows you to talk over 10 hours without recharging, and there’s an extended battery available, according to Engadget, that will nearly double its battery life.

The phone is selling for $299 plus a 2-year plan from Verizon; I have read, however, that Costco is planning to sell it at $279 with some (unnamed) accessories next week.  It could be a good bargain pack.

I’m quite interested in the phone. It may well be my next personal phone and the PR people at Verizon have offered me the chance to play with it next week. Is it the ultimate smartphone?  With so many other 4G phones about to break from companies including Samsung and HTC, and even a rumor that the Bionic may be upstaged by yet another new Motorola smartphone, it’s hard to know.  But clearly this is a top-notch contender.

I’ll let you know next week after I’ve had a chance to play with it.


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