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Category: Mac

Apple does the right thing with DTKs

Amidst all the hoopla over the new [Intel-based Macs](, I’ve seen little coverage of this item: Developers who spent $999 to “rent” a Developer Transition Kit (a G5 case with a Pentium 4 inside) will have the opportunity to [exchange]( it for a 17-inch iMac with the Intel Core Duo inside. For *free*. And yes, they get to keep the iMac.

I had privately conjectured that Apple might encourage developers to return their DTKs on time by offering a small incentive (like a $500 credit towards a new Intel Mac), but this is even better.


Switch campaign updated

Looks like Apple has updated their [Switch campaign]( Now *that’s* more like it. I’ve been “advising” the neighbor on what computer to buy their son who’s heading off for college — his first volley was “Look, here’s a Dell for only $299!” — and this is the sort of information I’d like to have handy.

In fact, if Apple’s serious about restarting the campaign, they ought to be printing this up as a brochure to distribute at Best Buy (next to the Mac minis), CompUSA, etc. They should also have a version ready to go as a multi-page ad insert for glossy magazine and Sunday supplements.

And most importantly, they should have one of those MTV-style TV ads that shows beautiful happy people plugging their iPods and their digital cameras and their camcorders into Macs — each bringing up the appropriate application — and ending with the Apple logo and the URL Put it in heavy rotation starting this fall; get people fired up for it by Christmas.

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It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)

Guess I was wrong about that whole Intel thing, huh?

The afternoon of the [announcement]( I was describing myself as “lost and frightened” to people who knew me as a long-time Mac fan — but that was (mostly) a joke.

Now that we’ve all had a month to let the news sink in, it appears that this will be a good decision for Apple to have made, and most people seem to agree. Of course there will always be the usual idiotic comments from analysts. One important point made by [Matt Deatherage]( is that (contrary to some misguided advice) there is no reason not to buy a PowerPC-based Mac today if you need one — it will continue to run all existing Mac software through the transition and beyond, whereas Intel-based Macs may not run existing software as smoothly at first (apart from the usual first-generation glitches).

On the other hand, if I were in the market for a new PowerBook but didn’t need one in the next six months or so, I would definitely wait to see what’s announced in the new year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Intel-based portables (or even Minis) announced in January at MacWorld Expo and shipping shortly thereafter (although March might be more likely). Meanwhile, we should see new PowerPC-based desktops this fall. (I hope so — I’ve got a developer hardware key I need to use by mid-November, and my G4 (Digital Audio) is getting a little long in the tooth.)

But for most end-users there will be no discernible difference between PowerPC-based Macs and Intel-based Macs. (Unless you rely on something that runs in Classic; then you may want to stock up on PowerPC machines over the next year.)

Developers? Well, Mac developers continue to live in interesting times — maybe a little more interesting than before.

Bonus link:
It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

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Dogs and cats living together

Apple and Intel. Geez. That’s what I get for spending a weekend away from the Internet.

I’m still catching up to the Internet commentary, but it’s beginning to sort itself out, or at least start to repeat itself. Just to put my thoughts on the record — I’m leaning toward the “Intel builds a fast PowerPC-family chip for Apple” scenario. It seems to accomodate the evidence best, especially the less obvious details, like starting with low-end computers in 2006 and going to high-end in 2007 (it’s the low-end G5-class chips Apple needs worst), and why Intel instead of AMD (because AMD only builds x86 chips).

I guess we’ll all know by this time tomorrow…

(Bonus link)

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Exclusive: New Tiger window style deciphered

Paul Thurrott accidentally wrote a pretty favorable review of Mac OS X 10.4 (“Tiger”). Towards the end, he apparently realized he was losing all his street cred in the Windows world, so he threw in some gratuitously negative comments — “Tiger is in fact a minor upgrade with few major new features, more akin to what we’d call a service pack in the Windows world” — which, apart from being patently ridiculous, supports the not-very-original premise that Apple fans are “suckers” who will immediately cough up the cash for mere glitz.

  • Pretty tough stance for a self-described “Mac fan [his] entire life”; so much so, we learn, that in 1987 he replaced his Commodore 64 with … an Apple IIgs. This was followed by an Amiga; then, when Commodore went belly up, a PC running OS/2 — this is one industry analyst who really knows how to pick winners — and finally, in 2001, an iBook. Pity the poor “Mac fan”, pressing his nose against the glass for fourteen years.

I mention all this as an excuse to use another of Thurrott’s comments as a jumping-off point for an observation I have not seen elsewhere as yet. (Not that anyone’s going to see it here, but at least I’ll be on the record.) By now many people have commented on the new window style seen in Mail, where the title bar and toolbar blend together in a single gradient. Thurrott remarks upon “yet another user interface style”, which he calls “plastic”; others have called this change “arbitrary” or “gratuitous” or “confusing”.

Well, I think I’ve figured out the logic. Here are some applications using the new window style: Mail, Help Viewer, System Preferences, Xcode 2, and the Spotlight window itself. What do these all have in common? The Spotlight search field. The new window style, to me, is a visual cue that the application supports Spotlight as a primary navigation mechanism.

Unfortunately this analysis fails in two important respects:

  1. I haven’t found anything in the Apple documentation that suggests this usage is intentional. (Of course, the Tiger developer documentation hasn’t been publicly released yet.)

  2. A huge exception to the rule is the Finder, whose windows still (inexplicably) use the “brushed metal” style. You’d expect that if a Spotlight cue were present anywhere, it’d be in the new Finder.

Still, this is the best theory I know to explain the new style, and I haven’t seen anyone else mention it, so I hereby take credit for it.

  • On the other hand, Mail’s toolbar icons… I understand why they’re in “capsules” (to allow for toolbar button “groups” — though it makes the non-grouped icons needlessly cramped), and I even know why they’re “centered” (they’re not; they’re left-justified over the message list, skipping over the mailbox source list — a bit of a hack, but having Delete and Junk over the source list is potentially confusing). But I won’t make apologies for them, either.

[2005-04-16: Added Help Viewer to the sample applications.]

[2005-04-22: Well, I could be wrong… see first comment.]

[2005-05-05: Yes, I’m wrong… see second comment.]


That's better…

Following up to my last post: Today Dantz released a new Retrospect Driver Update that supports the DVR-109. I hooked everything back up and fired up Retrospect; it recognized the drive immediately and proceeded to happily write to my 16x media. (At around 360 MB/min, too; not bad, although perhaps not the boost I was looking for.)

Now the only problem is the fan in the Bytecc case, which is fairly loud; I may have to move the 109 into my G4 tower if I’m going to be using it as the primary drive from here on out. Still, I’m happy to (eventually) get things working the way they’re supposed to.

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How not to backup to DVD+R faster

My backup strategy for the three household Macs involves periodic archiving of about 60 GB data from an external hard drive (to which the “daily” backups are made) to DVD+R discs. Now that there are 16x DVD burners on the market for under $100, I figured it was time to upgrade in order to speed up the process. I wanted to go from a DVR-106 to a DVR-108, which is supported by my backup program (Retrospect); but by the time I was ready to pull the trigger it had been replaced by the DVR-109. Well, OK, I figured; it’s probably enough like the 108 that I can get Retrospect configured to use it.

Trying to save a few bucks, I purchased a bare drive and an external FireWire enclosure from an online media vendor ( that had a good price. I did this on a Tuesday and requested two-day shipping, so I’d have it in time for the weekend. Long story short: the enclosure turned out not to be in stock; I tried to get the vendor to send the drive out early; they ended up shipping the entire order a week later. So much for two-day shipping. [I emailed them that I was annoyed my entire order had been delayed for an item the web site had said was in stock; and would some portion of my wasted two-day shipping charges be refunded? I’m still waiting for an answer on that one…]

When the package arrived, I found the bare drive wrapped in bubble wrap and thrown into the box along with the enclosure and a bunch of foam peanuts. I know I didn’t order a retail pack, but I expected the drive to at least be in a *box*. Still, everything appeared to be in order and undamaged.

Turns out the Bytecc enclosure is so cheaply made that the plastic strips that are supposed to cover the gap between the top and bottom lids don’t fit properly. Well, never mind; at this point I really just want to get the drive to work. System Profiler recognized it; Retrospect didn’t, but I expected that. Started up the configuration process; Retrospect asked for a disc of the type to be used for the backup, so I gave it a blank 16x DVD+R disc. Then it asked for another one. Then it gave up with an uninformative error message (after burning just enough data to each disc to make it unusable). In a momentary lapse of reason, I tried again with the same result.

Hey, didn’t I hear there was a firmware update for the 109 to support additional high-speed media? Oh, wait, the Mac flasher doesn’t support the 109. Great. Hey, somebody at []( says you can use Virtual PC and a USB connection. Let’s see, my PowerBook has a USB 2.0 connection, and I’ve got this spare hard disk enclosure that happens to have USB 2.0. By perching the 109 on the 3.5″ case I was able to hook it up to the USB connector and thence to the PowerBook. The Pioneer flasher worked perfectly under Virtual PC — the first thing that had gone completely right.

It turned out to be the only thing. System Profiler reported the updated firmware, but once again Retrospect failed to configure the drive, Now I’ve wasted *six* blank discs and about two hours of time.

At this point I did what I should have done in the first place: I called Other World Computing, which is one of the two vendors Dantz includes on their compatibility list with FireWire DVR-108 drives. They now show their burner with the 109 (like everywhere else, the 108 seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth). They also explicitly list Retrospect compatibility, but I thought I’d better make sure. The person I spoke to initially claimed it was supported as a “generic” device, but after checking with someone said they’d just sent a sample to Dantz and in about six weeks they’d have built-in support. (He implied my problem coniguring the 109 was the case I was using, but of course he’d say that.)

End result: As a result of not wanting to wait a few weeks and trying to save a few bucks, I have a DVR-109 drive in a cheesy FireWire case that (thanks to [PatchBurn 3]( will apparently work with everything *except* Retrospect — the one thing I wanted to use it for.

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Dear Paul Thurrott…

Could you explain just what you mean in your article [Apple Macintosh Installed Base Set To Grow Again](

1) You show Forbes quoting Goldman Sachs as saying in 2005 Apple will see “unit growth of 10% compared to our industry growth estimate of 9%”. Doesn’t that mean, at least, that *Goldman* thinks Apple’s installed base will grow relative to the rest of the industry? Why should we use Goldman’s numbers for Apple, but Gartner or Merrill Lynch’s numbers for the industry? Isn’t that comparing apples to — no, I promised not to use that phrase again…

2) You say “if just one ex-PC user switches to the Mac this year, than the Mac’s ‘installed base’ increases, rendering this headline moot.” Doesn’t this argument *support* the headline, instead of making it moot (which I looked up to make sure I understood: “1. Subject to debate; arguable / 2. b. Of no practical importance; irrelevant”)?

3) “I’ll mention once again just for kicks that I’d love to see Apple really grow its Mac market, though no one seems to believe it.” I’d *like* to believe it, but as you seem to keep going out of your way to find the worst in every Apple item, it’s hard. Perhaps twenty years’ of Macintosh use has enfeebled my mind.

Thanks for your consideration.

[Since I can hardly pretend Paul Thurrott reads my weblog, I actually sent this by email as well. Let’s see if I get an answer.]

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SubEthaEdit 2.1

SubEthaEdit 2.1 is now available (tip of the hat to Bill Bumgarner).

It was through use of SubEthaEdit to collaborate on a shared set of notes at [PyCon 2004]( (a story I’ll tell someday) that I first made public reference to having a weblog, to near total indifference from the world at large.

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