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See Inside July 2010

Mac Masters Show Apple Acolytes the Latest Tricks and Toys

Shipping out with people who love a certain kind of MacHine

The classroom gently rocked as the speaker approached the lectern. I sat quietly, holding one talisman in my left hand—an iPhone—while balancing another sign of fealty in my lap—a MacBook. The computer was brand-new, purchased for this very purpose. Otherwise, the assembled might have scoped me out for what I truly was—a ­quarter-of-a-century adherent to PCs that ran DOS and ­Windows—and thrown me overboard. For I was attending a weeklong gathering at sea of the faithful, called MacMania 10.

One hundred two Macphiles and I were onboard the Holland America cruise ship Veendam, heading southeast from New York to Bermuda in the first week of May. In 2008 and 2009 I also sailed, but as a speaker in the Scientific American Bright Horizons series produced by Insight Cruises. Insight also puts together the Mac­Mania outings, as well as sojourns featuring opera, astronomy and quilting. Hence their URL: geekcruises.com.

When my regular old cell-phone-that-just-calls-people-and-takes-cruddy-photos died last summer after being soaked in a thunderstorm, I bought my first Apple product, the iPhone. Which has since become permanently attached to my left hand. So when the cruise curriculum featured numerous talks on maximizing the iPhone experience, I decided to sail—on my own dime this time and with the new MacBook, so that the talks about that device wouldn’t be lost on me.

My classmates were so devoted to Apple that some three quarters, based on a show of hands, already owned an iPad. Although, in truth, their presence on the ship was proof enough. As speaker David Pogue, tech columnist for the New York Times, categorized them: “You who are enough nuts about your Apple stuff to pay for an expensive cruise just to hobnob with other oppressed minority members.”

Despite their love of pomology, some could admit to certain issues. Sal Soghoian, AppleScript product manager, acknowledged the iPad screen’s glare and reflection: “I’m tired of looking at my nostrils while watching a video.” To which some wag in the audience shouted, “It’s easy to get rid of the glare with the fingerprints.”

The fingerprint issue is real, but as Pogue explained of the ­iPhone, “It has this oleophobic coating. Oleophobic, of course, meaning afraid of yodelers. No, meaning repels oil.” He then showed his messy screen to the audience. “You can see how greasy this is. I do one wipe on a piece of clothing,” at which he drew the phone across his pant leg, “and it is spotless. All the oil is gone.” The same is true for the iPad, although, as Pogue said, “You have to have bigger pants.”

Trifles with fingerprints aside, the audience’s true zealotry was revealed when Andy Ihnatko, Chicago Sun-Times tech columnist and inventor of the Macquarium (a real aquarium made from the chassis of an old Mac computer), had a brief problem getting his MacBook to interface with the ship’s audiovisual system. He muttered, “Tip one, get a Windows 7 machine—they give you less trouble than a Mac.” Lusty boos erupted, and some might have rushed the stage had ­Ihnatko not made it clear he was, of course, just joshing.

Another example of the true love of the MacManiacs was their desire for logoed apparel. Macworld magazine’s editorial director Jason Snell offered a golf shirt featuring the ­Apple logo to anybody who could reasonably wear a XXXL, which Soghoian called simply “programmer-sized.” Greedy for the same-style shirt that Steve Jobs, hallowed be his name, wears at presentations, one ­attendee yelled out, “I’m willing to gain the weight.” Which would also lead to pants suitable for iPad wipes.

It is easy to gain weight on a cruise ship, but between the six meals a day I learned many useful things. For example, how to copy movies from DVDs. You see, according to Snell, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act says that writing software to copy movies is illegal. And the Motion Picture Association of America, an industry group, says that using the software is illegal. Although some legal scholars think that if you have purchased a DVD of the movie And Justice for All or 12 Angry Men or The Firm, and you have copied said movie and put the party of the first part on your iPhone strictly for your own personal use, then prima facie res ipso loquitur sic semper tyrannis you’re within the law. Especially if you do it in international waters.

This article was originally published with the title "An Apple a Day for a Week."

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