Macintosh Highlights From Around the Web (Jan.-April 2004)

This is all starting to sound familiar So let's see: Updates to Apple's high-end hardware are delayed, with speculation mounting that its main chip maker is having problems getting said chips out the door. Power Mac sales cool, Mac fans get worried, and everyone waits for the next release. And waits. And waits. No, we're not talking about Motorola anymore. Apple's main chip supplier for the G5 is IBM. But never fear, says Businessweek's Alex Salkever in his latest Byte of the Apple column.

Scriptin' Safari.... If you're using Safari as your primary Web browser, then you'll want to take a gander at this page on Apple's site, which details a number of functions you can add to Apple's browser. "Using these special bookmarks you can select text on a webpage and use it to search the iTunes Music Store or a Sherlock web-service," Apple says. Among other things, you can look up word definitions, check flight information and get stock quotes.

Heading for WWDC 2004? If so, you'll want to check out the preliminary schedule Apple has now posted. The event, which runs from June 28 to July 2 in San Francisco, offers seven technology "tracks," including sessions on application technologies; development tools; enterprise IT; and OS foundations.

They're out! Anyone following the rumors sites knew that Apple was supposed to release updated laptops today, and indeed it did. The new 17-inch Powerbooks Apple unveiled sport a 1.5Ghz G4 processor, as does the top-end 15-inch model. Even the smallest 12-inch Powerbooks got substantial upgrades, and have 1.33 Ghz chips--the same speed as the old top-of-the-line 17-inch Powerbook. The 12- and 15-inch models are available now, Apple said. The 17-inch model is due out early next month.

Hate technology? Get a Mac. That sums up how self-described "crotchety old man" Lex van den Berghe, never a big fan of technology, feels about Apple. "...I realized I could only hold out so long. Eventually it was inevitable that I'd have to accept (and embrace... yuk) the computer into my life. Thank the gods for Apple computer. [It] took what some of us perceive as a bitter pill and made it palatable...." Find out more in his column in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

An alternate marketing strategy? John Kheit over at the MacObserver has an interesting look at what Apple could -- and he thinks should -- do to better position itself in techland. "For the life of me I cannot figure out why Apple does not go for more market share; it seems a very elementary thing to do. The place where you grab globs of market share is from the corporate market...." Read more.

Take a Mac networking professional to camp. MacRetreats is offering what it bills as "part summer school, part summer camp" for IT workers who provide network services to organizations with 15 or more Macs. The Mac Networkers Retreat is set for July 7-9 at the University of California, Santa Barbara and provides "three days of training courses and interactive discussions on state-of-the-art techniques for deploying Apple networking products."

Now that's a G5 I'd like to have! Take a look at this story from Mac OS X hints and maybe you'll understand why updates to the Power Mac line have been so long in coming. According to the story, Apple has finally updated the Power Mac with a triple, count 'em, three-CPU version. Of course, you might also take note of the story's date: April 1, otherwise known as April Fool's Day.

Security through obscurity? Or is Apple's operating system really more secure than its Windows counterpart? That's the question James Maguire takes a look at in a story in Enterprise Security Today. Yes, analysts point to the old "security through obscurity argument," saying there's at least some truth to it. But, they also note: "If Windows with its known vulnerabilities has proven good enough for corporate use, OS X is certainly as good as that standard, if not better in certain ways."

Apple ready for the big leagues?

Dan Carney, over at FCW.com, a government IT publication, thinks so. With the combination of powerful hardware centered around the G5 processor and the Unix-based Mac OS X, "the rugged individualist Macintosh computer is starting to look corporate," Carney writes in his story "Apple gets juiced up." Read it here.

Xserve RAID Admin tools 1.3 are out

Apple has released the latest version of its RAID Admin tools, the Java-based remote management software designed to make it easy to set up and monitor storage volumes. More information, and a link to the tools, is available here.

Another switcher tale

David Harding calls himself "married to Microsoft." But from the latest piece he's written for The Tech Cynic, it looks like he's getting a divorce. Harding, a Windows programmer with a lot of experience with various Microsoft products, says he's completely converted to Apple. As he sums it up: "I look forward to the day when I never have to touch a Windows box again."

Thank Apple for BSD

Osviews.com has a look at how Apple's work on Mac OS X has breathed new life into the FreeBSD operating system. As Rozz Williams says in her editorial: "Apple saved FreeBSD and I have no problem admitting or accepting that."

Apple confirms the obvious: the Xserve G5 is late

Gee, this sounds familiar. Apple announces hot new hardware at MacWorld (in this case the Xserve G5) and here it is March with no Xserves in sight. According to an article in Macworld UK, Apple now hopes to ship the Xserve later this month. It cited "an incredible amount of custmer interest" in the new hardware. The Xserve was due out, by the way, in February.

Apple enterprise market exec out

Sebastian Gunningham, hired by Apple in 2002 from Oracle in an effort to open up the corporate world to Macintosh products, has left the company, according to this story in BusinessWeek online. Gunningham apparently left last month to run a Miami-based software company, and Apple is now seeking a replacement.

Inside the iPod Mini

Come on, admit it. When you pick up Apple's latest iPod, the cell phone-sized mini, don't you really wonder how they crammed all that technology in such a little space? Well, Greg Koenig over at the iPodlounge wondered the same thing, so he grabbed his tools and dug right in. And then, after figuring out how hard it is to do, he darkly warned readers: Don't take apart your new iPod mini.

To Mars and beyond

Matt Golombek, a JPL planetary geologist and the man who helped choose the landing sites for the Mars rovers, likes Macs. He and his colleagues used a top-end Dual 2.0 GHz Power Mac G5 at work to plot landing sites, and he himself has a TiBook for personal use. Asked by The Mac Observer about the G5 and why it was used, Golombek cited "the ease of the interface and the Mac's particularly good ability to render maps and mosaics." Read the whole interview here.

Remember the Maine (iBooks)

Well, it's been almost two years since Maine education officials began putting iBooks in the hands of the state's middle school students. And a study out last week on how the program has fared offers good news: Students with laptops are more engaged in learning and produce better school work. That's according to a story on MaineToday.com. The survey relied on responses from 26,000 students and 1,700 teachers.

Firebird Web browser becomes Firefox

The folks over at Mozilla yesterday unveiled the 0.8 version of the Firefox Web browser, an open source variety of the Mozilla browser formerly known as Firebird. And if you're interested in playing with yet another Web browser on the Mac side, it's worth checking out. I snagged it last night, and to my unscientific eye, it's faster than Apple's own Safari for loading pages. And despite hours of surfing, I had no crashes. In other words, it's fast and seems stable. And it's free.

OmniWeb picks up the tab(s)

In case you were looking for yet another Web browser to tinker with while surfing, you might want to check out the latest version of OmniWeb, which was released on Monday. The public beta of Omniweb 5 has a really nice take on tabbed browsing, along with a slew of other little features that set it apart from the other browsers that work in Mac OS X. John Siracusa, at Ars Technica, has a comprehensive look at the browser. So does John Gruber over at Daring Fireball.

How to make amends

Apparently, Andy (see next post), was only goofing around, and is shocked! shocked! that the Mac community would be upset that he had apparently lobotomized a Power Mac G5. His mea culpa is here.

How to enrage a Mac fan

So let's say your folks gave you a shiny new dual processor Power Mac G5 for Christmas. And let's say you prefer Windows. What do you do next? Well, in a move that has lit up Mac discussion boards everywhere, "Andy" took out all of the G5 innards and replaced them -- with the makings of a PC. He details the, uh, transformation online, thus earning the enmity of a lot of Mac aficionados.

"I wanted a Dell for Christmas," he writes."I don't have any programs for Apple and didn't feel like waiting for them. I thought about selling it, but my parents would be upset with me. After all, this was a very expensive gift and it meant a lot to them to give to me."

Talk about a G4 under the hood....

You have to wonder if this is what Steve Jobs & Co. had in mind 20 years ago when they launched the first Mac: Jiri Jirout tells the story of a Tatra 613 (it's a car) with a Power Mac G4 installed in it, complete with LCD screen. What's a Tatra? Why would anyone do this? Read it for yourself. The English translation of the story is available online.

Of Safari, 'permissive errors' and IE....

In case you've missed it, there's a food fight of sorts flaring over Safari, the prevalence of bad Web site coding and whether Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser is to blame for Safari's inability to load some Web pages. Without getting into the details here, suffice it to say that Safari developer David Hyatt has a good handle on the whole discussion. Head over to his online blog for the details. And no, he's not among those pointing the finger of blame at IE.

20 years and counting

Hard to believe, but it's true. Twenty years ago this week, Apple introduced the Mac to world with its famous "Big Brother" ad during the 1984 Superbowl. In honor of the anniversary, NPR is featuring an online report, "Celebrating 20 years of the Mac," which features a photo gallery of Macs through the years and an audio report by NPR'S Neal Cohen. Find them both right here.

Bluetooth in a pinch

InfoWorld's Chad Dickerson has an interesting column about how his Bluetooth-enabled Powerbook came to the rescue recently of a passenger in distress. I won't give away the story, but here's how he sums up the experience: "...The experience demonstrates something more transcendent than any one technology: when quick thinking and the right solution come together at the right time, technology can be downright heroic."

Apple touts 'blazing' Xserve RAID storage system

Looking for a RAID storage system with a 3U high-availability and 3.5 TB of storage capacity? Apple's new Xserve RAID storage system, announced at MacWorld could be what you seek. It offers up to 210 MBps throughput and "support for Windows and Linux-based computing environments, industry standard Small Form-factor Pluggable (SFP) connectors and broad industry support from 11 companies including Microsoft, VERITAS, Red Hat, Brocade and QLogic."

Make my Xserve a G5

Among the various announcements to come out of MacWorld today, this one's likely to tickle Mac IT types: The new Xserve G5. Available in either single or dual 2.0GHz variations, the new G5 hardware offers "a new system controller with up to 8GB of PC3200 error correcting code (ECC) memory; three hot-plug Serial ATA drive modules that deliver up to 750GB of storage; optional internal hardware RAID; dual PCI-X slots, supporting 133 MHz PCI-X cards with over 1 GBps of throughput; and dual on-board Gigabit Ethernet...." Prices start at $2,999.

Market share versus mind share

With MacWorld San Francisco kicking into high gear tomorrow, The Boston Globe's Hiawatha Bray offers an interesting look at how Apple, with maybe 5% of the PC market, wields such high-octane influence. In short: "I think the reason here is really extremely simple. They make really good stuff," said Josh Bernoff, principal analyst for Forrester Research in Cambridge.

It's a good backgrounder for this week's big show.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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