Macintosh Highlights From Around the Web (Sept.-Dec. 2004)

InfoWorld likes the Xserve G5 and Mac OS X 10.3. In its latest Technology of the Year Awards, InfoWorld counts the Xserve and Mac OS X among the winners in the hardware and software platform category. The Xserve won for best server hardware; Mac OS X 103. (Panther) won for best operating system -- but you probably knew that already, right? According to the publication: "The awards recognize significant technologies of the past year that promise to make the greatest impact on enterprise IT strategies, as well as the products that best exemplify the implementation of those technologies."

Of Tsunamis and Apple.... Looking for a place to donate money for victims of Sunday's tsunamis? Check out the home page, which is already a popular destination on the Web. Apple provides links to various organizations and relief funds under a message that reads simply: "Our hearts reach out to those hurt by the Indian Ocean tsunamis." Among the groups featured are the American Red Cross International Relief Fund, the AmeriCares South Asia Earthquake Relief Fund and the Direct Relief International International Assistance Fund.

Thunderbird: The details. By now you've probably heard about the Mozilla Organization's new cross-platform, open-source e-mail app, Thunderbird. (Think of it as a companion piece to the Firefox Web browser.) But maybe you weren't sure about dumping Apple's Mail application for the new kid on the block. Well before you decide, be sure to check out the extensive review of Thunderbird over at Ars Technica. Executive summary: It's solid at version 1.0 and offers a lot of promise.

Talk about iPopular. Want to know what's going to be under a lot of trees this holiday season? iPod minis. I was doing a little holiday shopping online and found that most of the major Mac retailers are sold out of iPod minis. They're so hard to find that one major online retailer (the one that virtually epitomizes the way to do shopping on the Web) tried to buy out all of the iPod minis from the lone competitor that has a few left. That's according to the customer rep I spoke to, noting that his company had put their allotment in some kind of special holding (hoarding?) queue. That way they could make sure the popular iPod minis went to individual customers. No wonder Apple's stock is soaring.

A hypersonic Xserve. has a detailed look at how the Hypersonic Missile Technology team at Colsa Corp. is using 1,566 dual-processor Apple Xserve G5 servers for its Multiple Advanced Computers for Hypersonics cluster. As Anthony DiRienzo, executive vice president at Colsa said, the resulting hardware "is significantly more cost effective than any machine in the top 20 of the Top500 supercomputing list. The Xserve G5 has a smaller footprint, uses less power, and it gives us the performance that we were looking for."

With gift-giving season nigh, and Apple's iPodPhoto still relatively new to the market, offers a look at the device that might come in handy for those eyeing it for their favorite Machead. Nathaniel Paffett-Lugassy says he didn't see at first what the hubbub over the newest iPod incarnation was all about. Suffice it to say, though, that now he does. Find out why right here.

Have Newton, will travel. For handheld fans, Wired has an interesting piece about Apple Newton fan John Charlton and the gallery of pictures he's collected of Apple's late lamented handheld. Charlton's Newtons Around The World gallery offers a slew of Newton pictures in various poses and places submitted by owners. My fav: the one from Newton Grove, N.C., my home state.

It's built like a MacTruck, so if you're looking for a way to protect your Powerbook from a speeding bullet, or just generally from the elements, Radtech has an answer. Its new MacTruck is a 3.2mm-thick aluminum alloy case in which your Powerbook nestles safe and sound. Jason O'Grady over at O'Grady's PowerPage has a review of the briefcase-like laptop protector. And yes, it would make a great holiday gift for your favorite Powerbook fan.

Having a blackout? Use your 'book. Charles Moore over at MacOpinion has a great piece on how you can keep your portable up and running during a lengthy blackout -- using a car battery. In a column called Power(booking) Through Blackouts, Moore spells out what he did during a recent power outage to keep his laptop chugging along. YMMV.

Lost in the browser jungle? You may have noticed reports that use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer has slipped a bit, even as various Mozilla-based browers are gaining popularity. But what about Safari? Well, according to, it's use is up to .91% of all browsers globally. IE still rules the roost, though with 88.79%.

Credit cards ready? Okay, this isn't exactly stop-the-presses news, but it still makes a lot of Mac fans giddy over Steve Jobs' expected "...just one more thing" line near the end of his keynote addresses. Yes, to the surprise of few, Apple's CEO has been confirmed as the opening keynote speaker at MacWorld San Francisco. The show runs Jan. 10-15, 2005. His presentation begins at 9 a.m. PST on Jan. 11. Gee, do you think there might be a hardware announcement or two?

Dissing Apple's drawers. Kirk McElhearn, over at Kirkville, offers a look at he considers a GUI faux pas in Mac OS X 10.3: drawers. "The idea behind the drawer is both interesting and attractive: it is an optional element that contains additional information, allowing users the choice of whether they want to display this information," he writes. "But in practice it is an annoyance, since it neither functions correctly nor does it display as it should." It's an interesting take on Apple's operating system user interface.

Make a widget, get an iPod. If you're an Apple developer and you like widgets (those self-contained apps that will appear in Mac OS X 10.4 when you use the Dashboard), here's a contest for you. Apple's announcement explains it all. But you'd better hurry. You only have until Nov. 30 to get your widget submitted. The winning entry gets a 40GB iPod.

Apple shines a spotlight on...spotlight! Speaking of Tiger, although it won't be out until sometime in the first half of next yearthe release of Mac OS X 10.4 will bring with it a system-wide search capability called Spotlight. Think of it as Google for any file on your computer. In an enticing little preview, Apple lays out some of the finer points of the upcoming OS addition and what it means to you.

The NSA offers Mac OS X installation advice to U.S. agencies. In a 109-page document posted online by the National Security Agency, the NSA has laid out how federal agencies can securely install and use Mac OS X 10.3. According to a story posted by, the agency "provides details on system settings, user accounts, Mac OS X Keychain Access and file encryption."

Forget U2, I want the iPhotoPod So the rumors were true. Apple was indeed developing a color LCD-screen iPod that can store photos as well as tunes. Of course, Apple calls it simply the iPod Photo (though I like my name for it better). The new iPod comes in 40GB and 60GB models and sells for either $499 or $599. And if you want to stick with just the music, there's the new 20GB black and red U2 model for $349.

Is that coal in your Xmas stocking? It is if you're hoping for a new Powerbook between now and the end of the year. Yes, the new iBooks announced today would indicate updated Powerbooks are soon to follow. Not so, says David Moody vice president of Worldwide Mac Product Marketing. In comments to MacCentral about Apple's laptop line-up, Moody had this to say: "This new line-up of iBooks, along with the current PowerBooks we have, will make up the complete portable line-up we will be offering for the holidays." Bummer.

Now that's a graphics card. Still waiting for your new Nvidia 6800 Ultra DDl graphics card? You know, the one you'll need to power that 30-inch Cinema Display you're also still waiting for. Well, from the looks of the benchmarks over at, it's worth the wait. As Rob Morgan says: "If you are either a serious gamer or a Motion "jockey," this card is a must have option."

Steve's baaaack. In case you missed it, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, after recuperating from cancer surgery, is back at work. Today he unveiled the new Apple Store "mini." And yes, as he unveiled the 750-square-foot protoype for Apple's new retail presence, he had on his trademark jeans and black turtleneck.

A PC user's month with a Mac Anand Lal Shimpi over at Anandtech has probably the longest and most detailed look I've seen of a PC user's time with Mac OS X and Apple hardware. Shimpi sums it up like this: "OS X is quite possibly one of the best operating systems of its time and in many ways, is the best for what it does, and Apple's hardware leaves very little to be desired." But don't just accept my word for it. The review is 17 pages long, but well worth the time.

Seeing spots, redux. In case you have a 15-inch Powerbook G4 and missed this announcement, take note: Apple has implemented a worldwide repair program for displays on 15-inch laptops that begin showing white spots. The models affected were built between July and November 2003 and include both Titanium-clad Powerbooks and the newer Aluminum laptops released last fall. And if you already paid to have your laptop repaired, and it's covered by the program, Apple will reimburse you. Details are available online here.

Lucky 13? Mark your calendars now. Apple will release its latest quarterly earnings report on Oct. 13, and it will be Webcasting its conference call discussing the results beginning at 5 p.m. EDT. As long as you've got Quicktime, you're good to go. It'll be particularly interesting to see what, if any, impact sales of the new iMac G5 have on the quarter--as they are only now hitting store shelves.

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

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