Author Archives: andy

Apple will have Intel inside: Jobs makes it official

Following my post about Apple/Intel rumours it’s now possible to confirm that the rumours are true:

Steve Jobs made it official at the keynote to the Apple World Wide Developers Conference today. Apple will be using Intel CPUs starting June 2006, and a complete transition will be done by 2007. Steve confirmed that for the past 5 years, Mac OS X for Intel has been in development, and Steve even did the whole keynote using an Intel-based system. As for Mac apps, Coca apps will require small tweaks; Carbon apps will require more tweaks; Metrowerks apps need to be recompiled using Xcode (version 2.1 was released today). Developers can then create a “universal binary” that can run on both PowerPC and Intel. Apple will also ship Rosetta, which will allow users to run PowerPC apps on Intel Macs. – MacAddict

The move marks a major shift for Apple, which has long relied on PowerPC chips from IBM to drive its computers. To help with the switch, Apple also announced the availability of a Developer Transition Kit, consisting of an Intel-based Mac development system along with preview versions of Apple’s software, which will allow developers to prepare versions of their applications which will run on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs.

“Our goal is to provide our customers with the best personal computers in the world, and looking ahead Intel has the strongest processor roadmap by far,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “It’s been ten years since our transition to the PowerPC, and we think Intel’s technology will help us create the best personal computers for the next ten years.”

“We are thrilled to have the world’s most innovative personal computer company as a customer,” said Paul Otellini, president and CEO of Intel. “Apple helped found the PC industry and throughout the years has been known for fresh ideas and new approaches. We look forward to providing advanced chip technologies, and to collaborating on new initiatives, to help Apple continue to deliver innovative products for years to come.” MacWorld

The move is being seen as a big gamble for Apple strategy, and a boost to Intel at the expense of IBM.

It ends a decade-long relationship between Apple and IBM, which have recently wrangled over supply problems. BBC News Online

So, it’s official. I guess Mac and PC users can both join in on whether Intel chips are the best. What’s next? Would AMD ever get a look in? Is there any way back for IBM? Ironic, that they are making chips for Microsoft now?

What do you think?

Apple / Intel Rumours

“The rumors floating around for the last few weeks that Apple will turn to Intel processors for future systems are now being moved from the rumor column to the confirmed column, according to some news organizations” – InfoWorld.com

Apple and Intel – the history

“Apple has seriously considered switching to Intel at least twice in its history. One previous project code-named Star Trek actually ported Mac OS 7 to Intel based hardware in 1992. Most recently, internal IBM documents noted that Apple considered switching to Intel but felt it would cause too much trouble:” – MacRumors.com

This time?

Apple is about to announce that it is dropping IBM chips in favour of those made by Intel reports suggest.

The first Apple computers with the Intel chips onboard could appear by mid-2006, technology site CNet reported over the weekend.

The move would mark a big change in Apple strategy, and a boost to Intel at the expense of IBM.

Industry watchers are expecting an announcement by Apple on the deal on Monday at a company conference [World Wide Developer’s Conference]. – BBC News Online

Why?

Why would such a deal come about? Supposedly IBM are not making (or refuse to / cannot make) a wide enough set of chips for Apple’s needs.

Additionally, IBM now has the contract to providing PowerPC chips for Microsoft’s imminent Xbox 360 console, Sony’s forthcoming PlayStation 3 game machine and Nintendo’s future game-playing machine. Apple isn’t their biggest customer.

Likely?

Here’s Jim’s opinion:

Well, the media is just going nuts thanks to a rumor started by ‘analysts’ at the Wall Street journal about Apple possibly using Intel chips in upcoming products, and everyone’s just falling all over themselves buzzing about the possibility. Personally I think that anyone in the media that starts talking about such things should be fired for their incompetence, but here’s my take on all of this.
First of all, nowhere in the original article was the word PROCESSOR mentioned. You know, that really big chip that runs the whole show? Last time I checked, Intel made more than just Pentiums, and Apple has used Intel chips in the past in its products. In fact, at this very moment I’m staring at an Apple multi-port Ethernet card removed from a G4 server, and it has Intel chips all over it.

Personal Opinion

I’m a Mac zealot, and the initial thought of this possibly being true initially made me a little uncomfortable…

…then again, what’s the big deal?

If Apple can get better, lower priced chips elsewhere, then why not? The Mac relies on a lot of industry-standard components for its machines now, a far cry from over a decade ago.

If they were about to announce going into partnership with Microsoft to develop future Mac operating systems, that would be something to really worry about. (It’s never gonna happen, right?)

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this isn’t just some elaborate wind-up. Steve Jobs may well make some form of announcement, it may even involve Intel, but it could well be different to what everyone has been rumouring – we know how the mainstream media have messed things up before, and unfortunately on far more important issues.

Rather than repeat everything that has been said thus far, here are some links that might be useful for further reading:

We’ll wait to see what (if anything) Mr Jobs has to say on the matter.

Dashboard improvements

Here’s a couple of things I’d like to see for Dashboard in future release, at least as an option:

  1. The first time Dashboard starts up, and sometimes when it hasn’t been used for a while, it takes a while for many of them to respond, even things like ‘Stickies’ and ‘Dictionary’ which are local. I presume it’s because many widgets access the Internet for the latest information, but there should be an option to either do this at startup (as Dashboard runs in the background anyway) rather than the first time it is invoked, and it should allow other widgets to be used whilst it’s doing it. This may just be because I am on a slower machine, though even on an iBook G3 it flies when it’s working, so I doubt this.
  2. After a while, if you use a lot of widgets, you start to run out of space, despite being able to tile widgets. What would be nice is a way of having more than one widget ‘page’ – say one for games, one for searches, one for shell apps, all user-defined of course. This would remove the need to move/hide widgets or add/remove them from the main screen (which takes time) just to use the one you want. I currently have 17 widgets open and with judicious placement, they look good, but I don’t know how many more I’d happily accommodate, and given that Dashboard is about speedy access to applications, just adding and removing them from the dashboard toolbar is not an acceptable solution.

I have to say, though, that with new widgets being coded all the time, I am loving it more and more (it was a bit boring with just the default ones after the initial ‘wow’ factor of the desktop graphics)

Dashboard Widgets: Some useful ‘geek’ tools

Here’s a brief look at some widgets which will be of more use to the geeks / techies.

  • Whoisdget 1.0 – WHOIS database checker – opens results in an Internet browser window. Shame it doesn’t put the results right in the Dashboard as an option.
  • QuickCommand – puts four most used UNIX shell commands on buttons. Outputs results to the widget’s window.
  • bonSearch:info 1.1 – an interface for searching information in sources such as Google, Wikipedia, Britannica, CDDB, Creative Commons. Results are opened up in a new Internet browser window. For this number of sources, it’s quicker than going to each individual site and you can hop to and fro from Dashboard with the same search term.
  • Lasso Reference If you use Lasso (I don’t) this is an online reference searcher. As per others, it’s really just a quick way of launching the website you need with the search term already plugged in. May save you some seconds.
  • Shell Watcher – monitor any shell command with customisable update period.
  • Network Stat 1.0 – displays your LAN and WAN IP addresses.

Apple’s Dashboard Widget page open for business

I mentioned in a previous post that clicking on the ‘More Widgets’ button on the dashboard screen prompts for a username and passowrd. No more. Apple’s Widget site is now open.

At time of writing there appear to be 109 widgets from various authors.

I’ve just downloaded an ‘Air Traffic Control’ widget which scans for nearby AirPort (ie 802.11) sources, and reports on their type and signal strength. It’s a breeze to install – just click on the title, it downloads a zip file which unpacks itself and automatically adds itself to the Dashboard screen. Simply click on the icon and it’s there.

Time to go hunting for some more interesting widgets.

Virus 0 – 1 iSync, and who early-adopts?

Having reinstalled Norton Antivirus 9.0, I tried booting it up last night and it still came up with an error, although it doesn’t appear to stop it from working.

iSync, on the other hand, had no problem re-syncing to my Palm PDA. I had read reports that one should synchronise the PDA to the Mac before upgrading to Tiger, otherwise the contents of the PDA can be wiped upon trying to sync for the first time under Tiger. No problem for me. I actually sync three machines to my PDA: my work PC, my G4 and my iBook, so I’m pretty synchronised!

I read a blog entry asking who really needs to upgrade to Tiger. It’s all very well stating that there are over 200 new features, but is that enough for the average user to want or need to upgrade?

It got me thinking about who is the most likely to “early adopt” Tiger:

Low-end users: those with lower-spec machines, possibly less money, and with few if any life- or business-critical data on their Mac, will probably not be in a hurry to upgrade, wanting to hold out for as long as possible before upgrading to the new system. They may not even be using 10.3 (or even X of any flavour). I was one of these once: very low-end Mac and no money.

High-end users: those with high-spec machines, probably more money (or business money), who use Macs and their applications as a critical part of their life or business: graphic designers, artists, musicians, publishers – the usual Mac fare. These too may be reluctant to early adopt, for whilst they may have the capital, they cannot afford to take the time or the risk installing a new system which may have idiosyncrasies (bugs) not yet spotted and fixed by a large user base. Whereas downtime for the hobbyist may be annoying, but acceptable, for the business/power-user, it could mean lost business and revenue.

Middle-spec users: Probably quite a diverse bunch of users – so not average – with medium- to high-end equipment and software, financially well-off, and willing to experiment and take technical risks. These are the most likely candidates for investing early in a new operating system release. There is a certain excitement in being among the first people to test new software, even if it carries a risk that things might not work quite the way they did before. They may, or may not, have backup plans if things really go wrong.

I’ll stick my neck out and say that there may be more early adopter types in the Apple Mac camp than in the Windows camp, traditionally because of the types of people more likely to use Macs, because of the ‘mentality’ of a Mac-zealot, that is oft written about, and because we expect Apple (despite some famous cock-ups) to provide good and efficient service to its users.

If there are bugs in Tiger (which there surely are) then you can bet Apple are working with early adopters on finding and fixing them.

Early adopting and anti-virus

Andy’s adventures with Mac OS 10.4 Tiger

Introduction: For what it’s worth, this section will be Andy’s ramblings on being an ‘early adopter’ of Apple’s latest Macintosh operating system. I’ve already written about the London launch, and the fun I had installing Tiger on my DVD. What next?

I don’t consider myself a power user by any means. I have a G3/800 iBook and a G4/775 desktop. The power user would consider them both candidates for ditching and upgrading, but they’re serving me well. Thankfully, Apple are still officially supporting G3s with Tiger, so long as they have FireWire port (I’m not quite sure why this is – I suspect it’s just an easy way to test how old a machine is, though I would’ve though they could use some other aspect of the machine, given that Firewire is only required for some aspects of iChat video conferencing that won’t run on a G3 or low-end G4 in any case.)

I do digital music, digital photography, web design, coding, a few games, general office stuff.

Anyway…

Virus Protection: Since installing Tiger, my Norton Antivirus has thrown up an error every time on startup – however it appears to continue functioning, does LiveUpdates, and I presume it is protecting my system. Dangerous…

Anyway, I’ve reinstalled the software on my G4 so I’ll find out tonight if it is behaving itself now.

Dashboard
Dashboard: Could be seen as a gimmick, but the widgets are quite useful as they stand, and hopefully a lot more, including ones not so geared for the US market, will become available.

Clicking on the ‘More Widgets’ button prompts for a username and password at the Apple site. Not sure if I should have that password? I’m on the lookout for new widgets. Will report them here.

The ‘cool ripple effect’ demonstrated at the launch event I suspect only works on high end Macs with above-average graphics cards. The ‘information flip’ graphic transition works well, but no ripples on my G3 or G4. Ahh well, it still looks darn cool. It is a bit sluggish when it first starts up, possibly owing to the number of Internet sites it tries to connect to in order to get the latest info.

Apple Tiger installation DVD drama

I installed Tiger on my G3 iBook with no problems at all – took about an hour all in.

The next puzzle was how to get Tiger onto my G4 desktop. It doesn’t have a DVD drive (just a CD-RW) though I have thought several times about adding one to the second drive bay.

Intial thought pattern:

  1. Install it over home ethernet network
  2. Apply for the CD media pack

Option 1 doesn’t work – I logged in to the iBook from the G4, found the DVD and double-clicked the Installer: Not allowed to run this program. Please use the original DVD. Hmm.

Option 2 Feasible, but I wanted a more immediate solution.

Tried to create a disk image of the DVD on a partition of the G4 desktop. Didn’t even bother to progress that one – highly unlikely to work.

Firewire logo
Solution: Target Disk Mode:

  1. Went to Tandy, bought a Firewire 6pin-6pin cable.
  2. Plugged in both Macs.
  3. According to the stuff I found online, you’re supposed to boot the machine with the DVD drive in Target Disk Mode (TDM), which the other machine then reads. Unfortunately, the iBook I have doesn’t seem to boot up the DVD drive so it’s not visible from the G4 desktop. Grrr.
  4. The other method is to boot the non-DVD machine in TDM. After working out why my G4 wouldn’t boot up in TDM (had the firmware password set, this has to be disabled) I booted it up, found its hard disk icon on the iBook, ran the Tiger installer from the DVD, and selected the G4 as the target for the installation.

This is the less preferred method, because the installation is supposedly tailored for the host machine (the G3 in this case) and not the target machine. However, the process worked, and I have not had any problems. Now I have Tiger on both machines, just as it should be.

Apple Tiger UK launch

Mac OS Tiger box
Here’s my brief review of the launch of Apple’s latest Mac operating system – Tiger (10.4 for those of you who prefer numbers to wild animals):

I left work at 5pm last Friday and headed for the Apple Store in Regent Street, which is thankfully only a ten-minute walk from my office. When I arrived it looked as if there was no queue – just a few people milling about… then I looked beyond the entrance to the metal railings and a long qieue.

I ended up around the corner, down a side street. I answered a few questions from puzzled passers-by. Probably not too exciting for the average tourist. There was a camera crew scanning the queue – probably for Apple promotional rather than broadcast.

At 6pm we started moving into the store; it was packed out. Lots of tables piled high with the Tiger boxes. We were all given a scratchcard, with the chance to win a PowerBook or some other equipment. I won a free iTunes download – oh well, I can dream…

In the gallery a presentation of the main features of the new OS began. We saw the dashboard, spotlight, the automator; all great new functions of 10.4 that mean “once you’ve used it, you’ll never go back to 10.3”. Several people were already installing Tiger on their laptops.

I am not sure what I was expecting from the launch – possibly a bit more ‘pazazz’ – but then maybe that’s not Apple’s style. I only stayed until about 8pm anyway, so they may have done more interesting stuff later on. In any case, I was keen to get home and install the OS.

More experiences with Tiger to come…

Putting crap in database fields

As someone who administers a number of databases, I’d say to anyone that you need a damn good reason to put non-standard values into a field.*

Today’s curse is sorting out the “Counties” field, which is supposed to be used to show British counties. To add insult to injury, people have to select from a drop-down menu, and if they try to type in a value that doesn’t exist, they are specifically asked if they mean to add that value (methinks the database is not locked down quite tightly enough, but I can’t control that bit at the moment).

People, let me tell you, from even basic general and geographical knowledge: Austria, Australia, BD20 0DX, Bahrain, Brentwood, Brighton, Jacksonville Canada, NW10 0HD… none of these are British counties, nor were they ever, nor will they ever likely be.

* That good reason doesn’t exist. The same goes for towns, titles, gender, and a whole host of other fields with clearly defined standards.

Unix flowers

I was digging about in the Unix system directories on MacOS X today (actually, searching for ‘joe’ which I thought I had installed, but is nowhere to be found) and stumbled upon the directory /usr/share/misc. Within this folder is the file flowers which is a listing of flowers and their meanings. I don’t know if it is actually referenced by any command; my guess is that a Berkeley programmer got bored and decided to put in an interesting, if not entirely useful in an OS environment, text file.


# Flower : Meaning
# @(#)flowers 8.1 (Berkeley) 6/8/93
#
# Upside down reverses the meaning.
African violet:Such worth is rare.
Apple blossom:Preference.
Bachelor's button:Celibacy.
Bay leaf:I change but in death.
Camelia:Reflected loveliness.
Chrysanthemum, other color:Slighted love.
Chrysanthemum, red:I love.
Chrysanthemum, white:Truth.
Clover:Be mine.

and so on

Pixel perfection: video game maps online

If you’re looking for maps of your favourite video games, check out the Online Video Game Atlas. There are some very large and detailed maps for download.

Be careful, though. This quote may act as a warning:

Weellll… I just learned how big a PNG has to be before Opera rolls over and plays dead.