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Macworld Expo's paraphernalia

Without much hardware or software news, the show floor is devoted mainly to ways to upgrade your existing Mac or to eye candy such as an iMac aquarium.

NEW YORK--With not much in the way of fancy new hardware and with many major software titles still not optimized for Mac OS X, much of the show floor at Macworld Expo here was devoted to ways to upgrade your existing Mac.

The options ranged from faster hard drives and DVD burners to the purely cosmetic, such as one-of-a-kind Macs used as eye candy and giveaways at booths seeking attention.

Hewlett-Packard was raffling off a now-defunct Power Mac G4 Cube painted with flames, while a smaller company was doing the same with an iMac aquarium--that is, a strawberry iMac case that had been converted into a fish tank. Meanwhile, New York-based Apple shop Tekserve went retro with an iMac painted beige to look like the original 1984 Macintosh. As a bonus, the logo was painted with Apple's old rainbow stripes.

For those who wanted to make more substantive changes to their machines, there was no shortage of options. Upgrades are big business in the Mac world.

"People tend to keep their Macs longer than a PC," noted Deanna Perkins, a product manager with graphics chipmaker ATI Technologies.

ATI was on hand to announce its $129 Radeon VE card for the Mac, an add-on graphics card designed as an upgrade for owners of older Power Macs who want to improve their graphics but aren't hard-core gamers willing to shell out for top-of-the-line graphics cards.

Despite the general sense that things weren't quite as happening at this Macworld Expo as in the past, there was still plenty to do.

Apple's booth drew swarms of people, some to see the speedier iMacs and Power Macs, others to play with the popular iBook and Titanium PowerBook G4 laptops, and yet others to get a glimpse of Mac OS 10.1, an operating system update slated to come out in September.

Across the hall, a long line of people waited for several "Apple Solutions Experts" to answer Apple-related queries.

Edward Trader, a senior editor with the cable network Lifetime, was hoping to find out where there is software that would let him use his current DSL connection with Mac OS X if he upgraded to the new operating system.

"I don't want to have to compromise my Internet connection," Trader said.

Most of the teen and younger set gravitated to a far corner of the convention hall, where there was a huge setup of Power Macs running the latest games for the Mac.

"It's awesome," 13-year-old Adam Rosado of Mountain View, Calif., said in between grinding rails on "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2."

Far less inviting, but still attracting some curious passers-by, was the booth for the IRS. The tax collectors were there to tout the agency's electronic filing and community services, including a program that trains volunteers to help the elderly fill out their tax forms.

"The IRS gives to the community as well as taking from it--in terms of taxes," said representative Nicole Cropp.