Categories
Apple Hardware

Apple’s Intel Strategy

Apple announced it’s moving from the PowerPC processor over to the Intel platform. Most feel this is a good decision, some have reservations. Regardless Apple left quite a few unanswered questions that really impact how successful this transition will be, and what the ultimate benefit (if any) there is to the end user. I’d like to take a moment and look at a few critical questions:

Will there be 64 bit computing?
Apple with much fanfare introduced the 64 bit G5 processor and everyone talked about how that’s the future of computing. AMD, and Intel have also started producing 64 bit processors. Windows Vista (formerly Longhorn) will ship in both 32 bit and 64 bit flavors as Microsoft believes during it’s lifespan people will start using 64 bit systems. Will Apple even bother adopting 32 bit Intel chips? Or stick with it’s 64 bit strategy? ThinkSecret’s look at the Intel Mac has a nice list of what the processor supports:

PU, VME, DE, PSE, TSC, MSR, PAE, MCE, CX8, APIC, SEP, MTRR, PGE, MCA, CMOV, PAT, PSE36, CLFSH, DS, SCPI, MMX, FXSR, SSE, SEE2, SS, HTT, TM, SSE3, MON, DSCPL, EST, TM2, CX16, and TPR.

What’s not on the list is EM64T. Why wouldn’t Apple ship developers 64bit systems? Intel has been shipping them for a while now. Hyper Threading is available though. It seems strange that Apple hasn’t said anything on it’s 64 bit strategy.

Disk Formats
Apple’s alleged position on the idea of running Windows on a Mac is that they won’t support it, but won’t explicitly block it, though Mac OS X will remain Mac only. But I must question if it would be in Apple’s interests to support Windows a bit more, including re-examining disk format issues. Right now, A Mac can read/write HFS+ (Apple’s disk format), UFS, and FAT32. It can only read NTFS. This is a problem for someone potentially dual booting a system in Mac OS X and Windows. On top of this, the partitioning is also an issue. Apparently Apple’s Boot ROM historically will only will boot off of Apple partitioned drives (such as my disk0 below). Windows will only boot off of FDISK or MBR. So it’s impossible to have a dual boot system using partitions on 1 hard drive. I don’t have a developer Intel-Mac to test this theory on, but I’m rather confident on it.

Robert-Accetturas-Computer:~ robert$ diskutil list
/dev/disk0
   #:                   type name               size      identifier
   0: Apple_partition_scheme                    *74.5 GB  disk0
   1:    Apple_partition_map                    31.5 KB   disk0s1
   2:              Apple_HFS Macintosh HD       74.4 GB   disk0s3
/dev/disk2
   #:                   type name               size      identifier
   0: FDisk_partition_scheme                    *279.5 GB disk2
   1:           Windows_NTFS PC Backup          120.0 GB  disk2s1
   2:             DOS_FAT_32 MAC BACKUP         75.7 GB   disk2s2
   3:             DOS_FAT_32 MAC SCRATCH        83.7 GB   disk2s3

So what should Apple do?

Apple should encourage this behavior. It allows potential Mac converts to transition much more gracefully, and allows them to see the Mac as a much more valuable product. A few things really need to be done here:

  • HFS+ driver for Windows – That’s right, I said it. Apple needs to allow you to access your data on Windows. Adding HFS+ support to Windows 2k, XP, and Vista would be appropriate. The alternative is getting NTFS write support in Mac OS X, which isn’t likely to ever happen.
  • Allow Macs to boot off of MBR partitioned drives (FDisk_partition_scheme as it appears above on OS X) – this would allow you to use 1 drive and boot both HFS+ for OS X, or NTFS for Windows. *Note:* you would need to format the NTFS partition on Windows.

By doing this, the Mac is clearly the better computer. It allows you to use both operating systems fluently. You can create a 10 GB NTFS partition and install Windows XP, then use HFS+ for all your data, and your Mac OS X volume. This would also pave the way for even more top notch Linux support (on the same drive too)

Then Apple’s silver bullet would be a VirtualMachine package, so you can run Windows in parallel with OS X, or multiple instances of OS X, or Linux. This would also aid in the server market. You can run OS X, with it’s infamous stability and excellent interface. But still get to your Windows data and programs if you need. There’s no longer any reason to say No to a Mac.

Hardware Lock in
This is the big question everyone wants to know. Today’s Mac’s are relatively easy to upgrade and repair using stock PC parts. Drives, RAM, most PCI cards (USB, Firewire, most networking cards in particular), etc. There are a few annoyances in Mac hardware today, the first being video cards. Sometimes you can hack the ROM and install Mac ROM and use them. Sometimes you can get a Mac version. Will there be good enough support to allow any AGP or PCI-X graphics card to just work? In theory, using an Intel architecture, the ROM should be the same now, so the issue may just be limited to drivers, so we may get lucky here. Presumably what makes a Mac exclusively a Mac will be it’s motherboard (or a few pieces of silicon and plastic on that motherboard). So anything else should be swappable with PC parts. Will Apple be pushing for more widespread driver support once the Intel Macs start shipping?

So Steve, if you happen to read this, and care to fill us in on Apple’s strategy, I’m sure we would all appreciate it. Apple’s Intel strategy is rather interesting, but it doesn’t quite say if Apple will be bridging the platform gap to allow for smoother transitions between Windows and Mac, or if it’s simply a processor swap.

Categories
Hardware

Backorder Fun

It’s like waiting for paint to dry. CDW still says on it’s website that my new HD usually ships in 3-6 days. OK, great, but I ordered on 7/5/2005. Oh yea, Seagate keeps changing the date of the delivery for the next batch. They initially told me it was supposed to be July 11 (aprox), then July 22, now August 1. Not that I’m optimistic it will ship on August 1. Sigh. What an absolute pain in the butt. And here’s the best part. Depending on the sales rep you ask, they may or may not have gotten a shipment in the end of June. Seagate says they haven’t shipped as of 2 or 3 weeks ago. So somebody is making up stories.

Oh yea, FedEx isn’t exactly an angel either. As others have noticed FedEx has a policy against 1 day delivery for ground or FedEx Express shipping. Even if you ship within the same town, or neighboring towns, you will almost definitely wait 2 business days. Most likely so you cough up $20 or whatever it is for overnight shipping if you want things next day.

So yea, ordering online is great, but backorders and delivery can totally suck.

Categories
Hardware

Bargain Shopping

It feels really good when you get a good price on something. I found out this afternoon that Circuit City had a 300GB Seagate drive for $99 after rebates. Yea rebates are a pain, but for that much of a discount, it’s so worth it. At $99 that’s $0.33 per GB. So I ordered the AMS Venus enclosure I planned to get the other day. I think that’s a pretty fair deal.

Still waiting on my massively overpriced (but much needed) laptop hard drive, still on backorder. Hopefully it will ship soon as expected. I’m not holding my breath.

Categories
Hardware Software

The ultimate backup solution

Ok, thanks to my whole laptop situation, I’ve decided I need a real backup solution. So here’s what I’m contemplating:

I’m wondering if I can effectively partition it? Save 80GB for laptop backup, 80GB for Mac Mini Backup, and 40GB for Linux Backup (those are drive sizes, not file sizes, yes I know 250GB isn’t really 250GB. That way I can back everything up rather well, and still have a little space left over. A firewire drive is faster than the internal mac mini drive, so I can use it as a scratch disk when compiling Firefox on the Mac for a performance boost. Carbon Copy Cloner (free), SuperDuper ($19) are good options on the mac side for backup.

And that backup system will cover 2 computers. I’m thinking when I finally get my new hard drive, that’s going to be my backup solution.

Categories
Apple Hardware

Memory Frustration

Ok, so first my Hard Drive goes (my good one). So I order another. Thankfully CDW doesn’t process the order, so when I get back from vacation I need to place the order again (note that sarcasm). So I move my mail and such over to my mac mini, which has so far been my secondary system. I use it for fun. My laptop does the mundane email and other associated BS. My mac mini is like that garaged car you take out on days when you want to enjoy the nice weather and open roads. CDW was initially telling me it would ship by 7/8 or more likely 7/13. Ok, so I should have it by Friday. Wrong. Now were looking at least 7/22.

Now my mac mini is only running 256MB of RAM. For a few days I would have made it work, and then go back to it as a secondary system, less apps running means I can get away with it a bit. Now I need to get this thing going for a longer haul. Best Buy has 512MB for $29! Unfortunately they don’t even sell a 1GB stick for less than $200. Yea, that’s right. So my best bet is Crucial. Still I feel ripped off. $29 for 512MB, or $105 for 1GB. How the heck does that work out? Only having one RAM slot makes the system fit so well on my desktop, but it sucks when it comes to purchasing RAM.

Sigh… so if you’ve noticed I’m not doing much lately, it’s because my computers suck. My Thinkpad is down and out, and my mac mini is struggling to perform and just frustrating me. I think I’ve got to bite the bullet and just cough up $100 so my mini performs better, and wait for a good HD to ship.

I hate this stuff.

Categories
Hardware Mozilla

USB drives to get smarter… with Firefox?

CNet has an interesting article up on Smart Drives. They are similar to USB Drives, though:

They developed a technical specification that lets consumers carry their entire desktop, including programs and personal preferences, with them as they travel between home and office. The specification even allows users to launch software and remotely access data on any Windows XP or Windows 2000 PC.

Will it take off? So far supporters include:

eight hardware manufacturers and 32 software companies supporting the U3 spec, including RealNetworks, Skype, TrendMicro and the Mozilla Foundation.

emphasis mine

It’s a really interesting concept, and something I’d really like to get my hands on. My only gripe is no word on cross platform support. My ideal drive would allow me to have data on any platform, and put binaries for each platform I want. So I can put my Mac Firefox, and Windows Firefox on there. And no matter what computer I use, I’ve got Gecko.

This technology would be great for allowing users to always have their prefered browser with them, regardless of what computer they use.

Still early on, but I hope they think about cross platform technology. Looking at technologies that took of, and those that didn’t, it’s clear cross platform is important. People don’t like the idea of needing specific requirements to use something. They just like to go. That’s why USB took off. Most devices work on any computer, and platform. I can take just about any mouse, and plug it in on any computer, and it will work. It’s why Apple’s ADC monitors were silly, but VGA, and DVI aren’t. It’s why Firefox is a wise business move. Why not have one browser for all platforms, rather than IE for Windows, Safari for Mac, Mozilla for Linux. But I digress. Cross platform functionality is important.

I’d love to see such technology in servers as well. It would be great to get zero config networked computers in a home. With many people having several computers in their house these days this is a big problem. Set up a wifi network, use one computer as a server, and let people login and access their files and programs. Essentially the server is just a disk (just like a USB drive).

Oh the possibilities!

Categories
Apple Hardware

Bill Gates must hate Xbox right now

Reading this article made me really chuckle. Just so happens, the Xbox is really a sister of the Mac Mini. We knew that for some time when they announced IBM was developing the processor for the new system, but it’s much more enjoyable seeing them use G5’s with OS X to emulate their new product. At least for the time they don’t have to worry about a Blue Screen of Death.

Btw: Playstation III will feature a PowerPC sister as well. Nintendo’s Game Cube has been for some time.

Yet some still say Mac hardware isn’t powerful enough for even the most basic games. All 3 gaming systems are moving towards the PowerPC chip.

Categories
Hardware

IBM sold the PC Group

IBM confirms. News.com reports. It will be interesting to see what happens. How all the branding will work, how it will transition etc.

Categories
Hardware

Digital Camera

Well, I’m finally thinking about getting a digital camera. Not quite sure if I want one, but seriously thinking about it. Could be a fun toy. Saw this one. I’m wondering if anyone has it, and what they think of it? Good/Bad? Better recommendation?

Might be fun to have. I’m going to think about it a bit. Not something I plan on doing right away.

Needs:
Decent Quality
Decent battery life
Zoom
Removable Memory (most likely SD) so I can upgrade, and carry an extra card
Cross Platform (Mac/PC support)
USB
Reasonable priced (I’m not a professional, nor will I use it daily. It’s mainly a toy to me).

Categories
Hardware

2 computer problems in 1 day

2 out of 4 computers had problems today. Yea! Home computing is fun!!! πŸ™

One was a relatively quick fix. Simple disk scan ended up fixing the permissions error, or whatever was wrong with it. The other (Bender, the file server), wasn’t so easy. Something ravished permissions on the System drive, causing tons of errors. Ended up formatting the System drive and doing a clean install. Easier than trying to fix it all, since that validate permissions option is a load of BS. As I type, I’m recompiling Perl 5.8.3(since Jaguar has 5.6.1). Overall, not to hard, since OS X comes so nicely packaged. Also a good excuse to update everything to more recent versions.

Previous uptime record is 28 days for that box. I think we can do better this time around πŸ™‚

I did get a change to go workout though, so It’s not an ubergeek day.