March 2004 News Archive
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Discover how to put Mac OS X to work for you at WWDC! Click here.
-- Wednesday, March 31 --
We have won nearly 50 free songs with an unaided win rate of about 75%. We're floating in Pepsi and they still owe us a replacement for an unreadble cap that we mailed in over a month ago. We guess that the redemption rate has been so low that the ratio of winning to losing caps has far exceeded the advertised 1 in 3 chance, at least in our area.
In part, the redemption rate is low because the contest caps on 20-oz bottles were very slow to hit the market nationwide and partly, we guess, because 20-oz bottles are not sold in quantities in supermarkets but only as expensive singles from coolers in convenience stores or coin machines and most were tossed without even being checked.
Still, we are surprised that Apple has not similarly partnered with other vendors. Surely, the advertising value for recognition is very good.
Retrospect 6.0.193 Update for Retrospect 6.0 for Macintosh is Out and available for download. Dana Baggett received the following note from Dantz that explains the changes in this update:
QuickerTek Released External WiFi Antennas for 15" & 17" Aluminum PowerBooks: QuickerTek, the developers of PowerBook antennas for all Apple wireless products, is now shipping the only external antenna for the 15" and 17" aluminum PowerBooks. According to QuickerTek it can easily double and triple the signal strength for PowerBook users, quickly and easily.
These new wireless Airport antenna products are available for $89.95 for either aluminum PowerBook computer. PowerBook users can find QuickerTek antennas at resellers including MacAnywhere.com; TechnoWarehousellc.com and SmallDog.com.
Netscape Lives? Well, MozillaZine thinks so. According to this MozillaZine article, AOL will deliver a new point release version of Netscape in the near future. It will be based on the latest Mozilla release and will be virtually identical. This is a little surprising because AOL stopped providing support to Mozilla's development some time ago. [Dana Baggett]
-- Tuesday, March 30 --
Hands-On Review--Apple In-Ear Headphones: When we bought our iPod mini we also wanted to get a pair of Apple's newly-released In-Ear Headphones to try out. Why? We are always looking for "small" solutions, i.e. some way of reducing the size (or quantity) of gear that we have to carry when we travel by air. That does not apply to our choice of mobile computer, a 17" PowerBook G4, but that is another story--serious screen real estate addiction. The Apple In-Ear Headphones were announced at Macworld 2004 along with the iPod mini but have been just as scarce, at least at the Apple Stores we visited. We found that B&H PhotoVideo had them in stock and ordered a set by mail. They were received in a few days, a couple of weeks ahead of the transcontinental flight we are on as we write this review. We visited the Tyson's Corner Apple Store over the weekend and it now has a ton of them, of course.
We have carried an iPod almost every where we have gone since they came out and have used them extensively on airplanes to listen to our own choice of music. The iPod's standard ear bud headphones are small, light and have excellent sound but one has to crank them up pretty high on an airplane to drown out the external noise. We have worried about possible further damage to our already poor hearing so we got a pair of Sony noise-cancelling headphones. They fold up but are still very large lump in our computer bag. Apple's In-Ear Headphones are as small or smaller than the standard iPod ear buds. They are supposed to fit tightly in the external ear canal like ear plugs so they should reduce external noise significantly without having to set them extra loud.
Apple's In-Ear Headphones come in a well-designed box that is useful for keeping them from tangling. They have three sets of caps that can be fitted to the phones: large, medium and small. Unfortunately, we must have ear canals smaller than the tolerance on the smallest set of caps because they are too large to fit in our ear canals. The phones either fall right out on their own or are dislodged by even the slightest tug on the wires. We tried cramming them in as hard as possible and even screwing them in by twisting them, all to no avail. From the forums we have visited, this appears to be a common problem. We don't know where Apple got its ear canal measurements but they seem to have managed to exclude a significant portion of the population. The caps need to be much smaller in diameter and a bit longer to fit snugly without using brute force. It's possible to make plugs like that because the earphone itself is pretty small.
When the phones are in tightly, the sound is great including the bass. When loose, the sound is weak and tinny. We managed to find a hack on one list server that kind of works for us. The plugs are inserted with the stems with the wires pointed up at 10 0'clock or 2 o'clock, depending on the ear, rather than down. Then the wires are draped back over the top of the ear, much like some hearing aids. Using this hack, the plugs stay in place for awhile and the In-Ear Headphones deliver rich, broad-range sound. However, we occasionally had to press on them. Forget eating or chewing since the plugs drop right out.
It's a shame Apple's In-Ear headphones fit us so poorly. They are small, light and deliver great sound. They also exclude most external sounds, perfect for airplanes, with the volume set at a normal range. They are much better at eliminating external sounds than our Sony noise reduction headphones. The exclusion of external sound is so good that we do not recommend using them while driving or walking around or in any situation where an audible warning may be needed--the standard ear buds should be used in those cases.
Except for the poor fit, the Apple In-Ear Headphones are exactly what we are looking for. Hopefully, Apple will eventually make smaller caps so we can use them. They are a very reasonable $39.
Ninth Annual Apple Design Awards Announced: The Annual Apple Design Awards recognize technical excellence and outstanding achievement in Application Software, QuickTime Content, and new for 2004 Performance Demos. The Apple Design Awards are presented annually at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, where the Mac technical community gathers to hone skills and learn best practices for delivering outstanding products with Apple technologies.
If you have worked hard to create a best of class product that showcases Apple’s platform and technologies, don’t miss this opportunity to be recognized by Apple in front of your peers and the press.
New in 2004. In addition to the new Performance Demo contest, this year there are new categories in both the QuickTime Content and Application Software contests, an expanded list of countries eligible to enter, and the option to submit electronically. And best of all, for the first time ever, winners in all categories, except the Student category, get to choose their own prize; either the stunning 17-inch PowerBook G4 or the groundbreaking 64-bit Power Mac G5.
For more information on the Apple Design Awards, visit this Apple web page.
High Performance Computing for the Rest of Us--New Apple Xgrid Cluster Article: As we have noted previously, you can set up a computer cluster with the Power Macs in your lab or office with just a few clicks, using Xgrid. The newest version of Apple's high performance computing software, Xgrid Technical Release 2, is out now with a number of added features. Apple has posted a new article on using Xgrid. This article explains who might benefit from Xgrid, how to set it up and get started, and shares some stories of how mathematicians and scientists like Xgrid's power and easy setup, which lets them to focus on problem solving.
iBooks Replacing Books? Maybe in Tuscon, AZ: The Vail School District in Tuscon, AZ, plans to hand each high school student at its new high school a new iBook instead of text books according to this article. This will be the first school district in Arizona to hand out iBooks instead of text books. [Dana Baggett]
WWDC 2004--Details on Over 100 Sessions are Out: From basics to best practices, the in-depth technical sessions at WWDC provide the latest details about Mac OS X and Apple technologies. Descriptions of more than 100 sessions are currently available to view with more coming soon. Check them out.
-- Monday, March 29 --
Hands-On Book Review--iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual, Second Edition, by J. D. Biersdorfer. The second edition of this excellent book was recently published. It is totally up to date, including ten pages of information on Apple's brand new iPod mini.
iPod & iTunes has 359 pages divided into the front pages, an introduction, 16 chapters and two appendices. Whoa? There's that much to know about the iPod, iPod mini and iTunes? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
The introduction covers digital music, all iPod generations including the new mini, the differences between the Mac and Wintel versions and the needed companion computer hardware. The first two chapters cover the iPods themselves while the next four cover the software, including the iPod's, iTunes for Mac and Windows, MusicMatch Jukebox for Windows and the iTunes Music Store. The next five chapters cover the typical non-music capabilities of the iPod including: contacts, calendars, games, ebooks and audiobooks and and an external hard drive plus keeping all in sync with iSync. The final five chapters are devoted to what the author calls "Extreme iPodding", i.e. lots of other things that the iPod can do using third party applications, hacks and hardware--chapter 15 is on troubleshooting with 36 pages. Appendix A covers the mechanical details of iTunes, menu by menu, in 14 pages and Appendix B does the same in eleven pages for MusicMatch Jukebox Plus. Finally, there is a nine-page index.
We read the book cover-to-cover, although we admit to lightly skimming much of the simple material since we are a long-time iPod and iTunes user. The book is very well written. It's style is clear and easy to read, especially for a "manual." A lot of the instructions are in the form of a figure with a set of steps to follow.
We learned a lot of interesting details including: the many digital audio formats, how to tell a Mac iPod from Windows iPod, that a Mac can use both the Mac and Windows formatted iPods but a Wintel computer can not and which iPod models can be used as startup drives with which versions of Mac OS 9 and X. The book includes easily-followed directions on how to make an iPod into a Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X startup drive, including doing so with Mac OS X 10.2 and 10.3 which is not so easy. Chapter 13 "Hot Hacks and Cool Tools" and Chapter 15 "Troubleshooting" are particularly useful to the initiated and unintiated.
Yes, there's a lot to know about iPods and iTunes, a lot more than we thought. We think everyone who uses both will find the book interesting to read and a valuable addition to their library. [iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual, Second Edition, February 2004, by J. D. Biersdorfer, Pogue Press/O'Reilly, $24.95 ($17.47 on Amazon.com)]
Apple's "More memory for less." Promo Extended to June 26th according to their memory promo web page. It was slated to run out this past Saturday. For this limited time you can save up to $700 when you power up a new iMac, Power Mac G4, or Power Mac G5 to maximum capacity. Get special RAM upgrades on all qualifying desktop systems when you custom-configure one at the Apple Store by March 27. Save up to $50 on each 256MB RAM module, up to $150 on each 512MB RAM module, or up to $50 on each 1GB RAM module added to your system. [Dana Baggett]
New Apple Promo "Brilliant savings." Get $500 Off a G5 and 23" Cinema Display when both are bought together according to this Apple web page.
From the Dark Side--MicroUnity SE Sued Intel and Dell over patent infringement on its multimedia procesing technology according to this NYT article on CNet. Remember hyperthreading being added to the Pentium 4 to speed up multitasking? Well, MUSE claims it's theirs.
-- Weekend, March 27-28 --
[Update 11a EST 3/27] Being First--The Maine Education iBook Program: The debate in Maine over expansion of their highly successful state-wide iBook program to high school carries on. Here is a column in the Morning Sentinel, "Long live the Laptops" by Jim Brunelle that sumarizes the issues very well while arguing in favor of the extension. As we pointed out in earlier articles, the first year of the extension from seventh and eighth grade to ninth grade is essentially at no cost. [Dana Baggett]
Here is the link for the standalone updater.
BBB Pans Apple's Initial Power Mac G5 Ad: The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended that Apple stop advertising the Power Mac G5 as the fastest, most powerful personal computer and that the G5 is the first 64-bit personal computer according to this CNet article. The NAD found Apple's evidence insufficient for the claim and that Apple's wording could encompass workstations. Dell Computer was fingered as the fink.
-- TGIF, March 26 --
[Update 8:30a EST] Students Testify in Favor of Expanding Maine iBook Program to High School: Some 25 middle school students testified before the Maine Legislature on how important the iBooks had become to their education in 7th and 8th grade according to this morning's Portland Press Herald article. The Legislature is considering Gov. John Baldacci's proposal to extend the program to 9th grade in high school basically at no cost for the first year. The 25 students representing nearly every county in Maine testified that the iBooks had become so central to their education that they can't conceive of going to high school without them and recounted all of the benefits for the Legislature. [Dana Baggett]
Quicken 2004 for Macintosh Release 3 (R3) Update is Available for download via the applications update feature. Intuit recommends that all Quicken 2004 for Macintosh users install this update. Here are the improvements:
For online banking users:
It's also available from this Intuit web page. [Joe Sacco]
Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition, Released by O'Reilly: CSS is no longer just about potential. "CSS is realized. CSS has proven itself beyond imagination. Cascading Style Sheets have unquestionably revolutionized the Web," says Molly Holzschlag, a steering committee member for the Web Standards Project, in a new Foreword to the just-released "Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, Second Edition" (Eric Meyer, O'Reilly, US $39.95).
MacWireless Announced High Power 200 mW 802.11g WiFi Access Point: Offering 200 MilliWatts of output power (6 times the normal power of AirPort Base Stations), the MacWireless 802.11g High Power Access Point has the signal strength to take your wireless network to the furthest corners of your building according to the manufacturer. They will ship April 10th for $199.98.
Airline Internet Pricing Announced: According to this Reuters article on Yahoo News, the cost for a transcontinental flight (3-6 hrs) will have a flat rate of $19.95. Flights under 3 hours will cost $14.95 and those longer than 6 hours will cost $29.95. There is also a metered rate. The Boeing Connexion system will be tested on a few Lufthansa, SAS, All Nipon and Japan Airlines flights. [Dana Baggett]
New Virex 7.x DAT Update is Out: Click on the eUpdate icon of your Virex application panel. There is a new DAT file dated March 03, 2004, available from McAfee that will download and install automatically.
Single DVD Format Standard Taking Over, Kind of...It's a Dual: Most, if not all, DVD drives are being manufactured to handle dual formats, i.e. both DVD-R and DVD+R. Sony started the movement with their dual format DVD drive and other manufacturers are following suit according to this PC World article on Yahoo News. Soon, it won't matter if you have a DVD-R or DVD+R disc to read or to write. [Dana Baggett]
New Macromedia Shockwave Player 10.0.0.210 is Out for Safari, Netscape and Internet Explorer web browsers and is available for download.
From the Dark Side--Look Out Google and Yahoo, Here Comes M$: In a speech at Microsoft's advertising conference, CEO Steve Ballmer boomed that M$ plans to come after leading search machines Google and Yahoo and catch up to them according to this CNet article. M$ has a monopoly in its Windows OS platform so using it, as M$ has with other technologies, M$ should have little difficulty catching up and crushing them like they did with Netscape and are doing with Real Player and QuickTime.
-- Thursday, March 25 --
[Update 9:30a EST] Apple Unveils Turn-Key Workgroup Cluster to 16 Nodes: Based on the new Xserve G5, Apple is offering a turn-key computational cluster system designed especially for bioinformatics starting at $27,999 with 2 nodes (i.e. 2 dual 2-GHz Xserve G5s). The cluster can hold up to 16 nodes or 32 G5 processors and provide up to nearly a half teraflop of computing power. Each cluster node costs $2999 by itself, making the full cluster of base 2-units plus 14 more nodes cost about $70,000, but Apple's web page provides no information on pricing above two nodes. One has to write Apple to get a quote.
According to Apple,
Here is Apple's pdf brochure with the technical specifications.
[Update 9a EST] Apple Delayed iPod Mini Worldwide Availability to July: The iPod mini is a huge success. We replaced our 30-GB iPod with a silver iPod mini (see our review) because it does everything we need to do and holds five times as many songs as we have--so far. At $250, the iPod mini sold out rapidly and supplies have remained contrained in the US. The continuing high demand means that Apple will have to ramp up production further to provide the iPod mini outside of the US. That is projected to happen in July.
According to Apple,
On-Site GDC 2004 Report with Photo Gallery: Our West Coast reporter, Brian Nakamoto, was able to attend the Game Developers Conference 2004 in the San Jose, CA, Conference Center yesterday and attend the Microsoft keynote. He said he saw nothing of Apple and ATI was not openly showing off its promised Radeon 9800XT for the Mac (256 MB VRAM). Nvidia's big announcement on its next hot game chip comes in a couple of weeks so nothing new was displayed. According to Brian,
Here is Brian's photo gallery.
FileMaker Pro Business Tracker Module is Free, a free download according to this FileMaker press release. FileMaker Business Tracker combines such key business functions as customer tracking, invoicing, shipping and more to help both current FileMaker Pro users and new users to learn about the many new features and functions now available in the new FileMaker Pro 7 database software from FileMaker. Try out Business Tracker with a free 30-day trial download of FileMaker Pro 7. [Dana Baggett]
What do the World Wide Web, Electronic Mail, Mailing Lists, Electronic Forums, Personal Web Pages and a funny looking penguin have in common? Find out Saturday, March 27, 9 AM to noon When Washington Apple Pi reviews its electronic services and looks to the future: some of which may surprise you. TCS Explorer subscribers, this is a meeting you won't want to miss!
Washington Apple Pi has a wide range of electronic services, from a busy Web site to electronic forums to E-mail service to mailing lists to (for Explorer subscribers) dial-up Internet connectivity and member Web sites. The March 27 General Meeting will feature a review of these services, plus (with any luck at all) a major announcement of new telecommunications capabilities. Grab a meeting brochure in Web-friendly JPEG or print-friendly PDF format.
Apple Wireless Keyboard/Mouse Firmware 1.1 Updaters are Out. They are available via the Software Update preference pane if you are using the Apple wireless keyboard and mouse. Otherwise, they are available as a standalone updater from this web page. The firmware updates are recommended for all users. The download decodes as two separate update installers. We downloaded and applied them and encountered no problems.
Nanosaur 2: Hatchling v1.0.4 Updater is Available for download from Pangea Software's web site. This update is highly recommended by Pangea and it will update any version of Nanosaur 2 to version 1.0.4. It fixes a major memory leak. Several other minor bug fixes and tweaks are also included. We love this game and anxiously await the arrival of the red/cyan glasses that we ordered last week.
Griffin SightLight is Now Shipping: Griffin Technology, Inc, announced the Griffin SightLight, the only light in the world made specifically for the iSight camera, has begun shipping--two weeks ahead of schedule. With SightLight users can better use their iSight cameras to video chat while they're in dimly lit or dark areas such as hotel lobbies or darkened rooms. Announced at Macworld Expo San Francisco in January, the SightLight slips directly onto the front of the iSight and beams a warm bright glow onto the iSight user. Settings include On, Off and an Auto light mode, which senses the amount of ambient light and adjusts SightLight's output accordingly. Made exclusively for the iSight, the Griffin SightLight sells for $39.99 and can be purchased directly from Griffin.
From the Dark Side--Mike Rowe Donates Legal Fund to Hospice: Remember Canadian teenager Mike Rowe? He put up a web site for his company with the domain name "mikerowesoft.com" which generated a legal attack from none other than the richest man in the world's company, Microsoft, for copyright infringement. That's right, Microsoft believed that Mike Rowe using his own name was a copyright infringement. People donated $6000 to his legal defense but Rowe reached a settlement with Microsoft. So he has stated that he will donate most of it, $5250, to a hospice for terminally ill children accordingg to this AP article on Excite News. [Dana Baggett]
-- Wednesday, March 24 --
USB 2.0 Flash Memory Drives Gaining Features and Popularity according to this Boston.com article. While the floppy drive has been dead on the Mac for years, the flash drive may finally kill them off on PCs. Now, flash drives are gaining features other than just being a straight copy medium.
We think someone needs to write killer Mac software that automatically exports bookmarks, contacts and other settings so the flash drive can be plugged into any Mac anywhere and the Mac will be temporarily sync'ed with the flash drive owner's configurations--kind of "My Mac is your Mac." We know one can do this with iSync and a .Mac account but it takes awhile and is difficult to remove when you are done. Such an app on a flash drive could be the next "Salling Clicker". [Dana Baggett]
iChat AV v2.1 is Out in Final and available for download via the Software Update preference pane or as a standalone installer. From the Read Me file:
We have been using iChat AV 2.1 Beta but haven't chatted with any one using AIM 5.5 and Windows via video.
Apple Xgrid Technology Preview 2 is Out and available for download. Yesterday, Apple's Xgrid Product Manager, Ernest Prabhakar, sent the following note to Apple's Xgrid list:
Xgrid is Apple's software for creating a simple, inexpensive cluster among Macs on the same network. Things like scientific simulation studies that require many separate runs to look at various scenarios or the effects of uncertainty are great candidates for Xgrid running overnight on many idle Macs on a network in an office building.
Apple Xserve G5 With Single 2-GHz G5 Processor is Shipping according to this Apple press release:
The single 2-GHz G5 model is shipping now at $2999 and the dual 2-GHz G5 models will be out in April. One of the dual models is optimized for clustering. All models include Mac OS X 10.3 Server with unlimited licenses.
Seniors Less Vulnerable to Spam/Fraud according to a study covered in this TechWeb article on Yahoo News. Web surfers 65 and older click less on scams and block more spam than other age groups. [Dana Baggett]
Zachary Keith Hill Busted for "Phishing" according to this PC World article. Phishing is an identity theft scam where an email that masquerades as a real email from a credit card company, Paypal or other financial institution asks the receiver to click on a link and fill in a form that has credit card numbers and other personal financial information. It's not too hard to believe but a lot of people have fallen for this particular scam because the bogus emails and web sites with the forms are many times very good forgeries. Frequently, the emails have obvious gramatical errors but, hey, people still fall for the so-called Nigerian scam which we find hard to believe. Hill of Houston, TX, was busted for this identity theft scam while awaiting sentencing on federal criminal charges. [Dana Baggett]
RIAA Sued Another 532 Individuals for Illegal Music File Swapping according to this AP article on Excite News. 89 are at 21 universities. The suits are "John Doe" lawsuits since in a court decision the RIAA is forced to sue first to try to get the actual names of the accused individuals rather than forcing ISPs to turn the names over to them. [Dana Baggett]
From the Dark Side--M$'s Passport Bombs: Do you trust Microsoft? Heck no! Why on earth would anyone give all of their personal credit information to the king of swiss cheese software to hold? This CNet article covers the lack of progress in the once crown jewel of Microsoft's eCommerce strategy. Passport was designed to use M$'s operating system monopoly to corner the market on eCommerce transactions and collect a toll on each one from businesses. The consumers' response has been no way, Jose, in the face of a better model from the Liberty Alliance, including Sun and Intel, that doesn't use M$'s exclusive software and servers for authentication.
-- Tuesday, March 23 --
Apple iPhoto v4.0.1 Update is Out and available for download via the Software Update preference pane if iPhoto 4.0 is installed. There is also a standalone updater available from this Apple web page. According to the Read Me file:
Updating the thumbnails of our meagre four hundred photos took 4-5 minutes.
Broadband Wireless Internet Widespread This Year? Maybe so, according to this AP news article. Lots of companies appear to be jumping into the fray--AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and Samsung. The signal will cover an entire city, not just the 300' that WiFi covers today. [Dana Baggett]
TechTool Pro v4.0.2 What's New Details Now Available: Last Friday we first posted the availability of the TTP4 v4.0.2 updater but noted that we did not know all of what was fixed. Here are the details courtesy of MacUpdate.com:
-- Monday, March 22 --
Mac OS X 10.3.3--How Fast Is It? As background, we have benchmarked every version of Mac OS X (except 10.3.1, a quick fix) starting with 10.0 because its speed has been the source of its biggest complaint, one that has persisted right through Jaguar's last version, 10.2.8. Apple made some progress with a couple of 10.0.x updates and with 10.1 and 10.2. But, as we noted in our last Jaguar benchmark, all of the Jaguar versions through 10.2.8 were basically the same speedwise. Our previous speed test of Panther (10.3) in October concluded that it was much faster in some very important aspects than the last version of Jaguar, 10.2.8. Panther's latest update is 10.3.3 and it appears to include some new graphics drivers so it may be even faster. Well, just how fast is it?
We ran our complete suite of speed tests on 10.3.3, consisting of a number of "canned" benchmarks and several so-called "real world" tests. They are described in detail in our G4 Cube 1.2-GHz upgrade review and are simple enough for anyone to repeat on their own Mac for comparison. We used a completely stock 450-MHz G4 Cube (except for the 704 MB of RAM) and our dual 2-GHz Power Mac G5 with 1.5-GB RAM and an ATI Radeon 9800 Pro (retail) graphics card as test machines. Each test was run three times with a cold boot in between and the average score or number of seconds computed. Here are the results comparing 10.3.3, 10.3.2, 10.3 and 10.2.8:
*Much faster is both more than 2 seconds and more than 10 percent than 10.2.8 values. **First number is after upgrade and second number is after applying SpeedStart.
In comparison with the last Jaguar version on our stock G4 Cube, Panther is much faster in 2D graphics and in finder operations This continues in 10.3.3. Startup in our G4 was also much faster with Panther 10.3 than with Jaguar 10.2.8. But the 10.3.3 update like 10.3.2 slows down the startup time significantly from 10.3. At least SpeedStart 0.1 is no longer needed. Disk performance also seems to be slightly poorer with the 10.3.3 update than even 10.3.2--this may reflect aging in the original drive. There is a continued but slight improvement in 3D graphics, i.e. 34 fps vs 33 previously in Quake III Arena.
The dual 2-GHz Power Mac G5 tests in 10.3.3 also reconfirm the significant speed up in finder operations running Panther over its special version of Jaguar--10.2.8(G5). There is also a strange anomally with the Let1kWindowsBloom test and the G5 running Panther (10.3), 10.3.2 or 10.3.3 that we can not explain--we ran it several times under a variety of circumstances and got the same results. Again, startup time in 10.3.3 like 10.3.2 even after applying the SpeedStart patch was slower than in 10.3 or 10.2.8. The major improvement in 10.3.3 is again in 3D graphics, the Quake III Arena performance fps increased again to a high of 364. Xbench's OpenGL Graphics test is also faster in 10.3.3 than in any previous version.
In summary, the Mac OS X 10.3.3 update is a little faster than 10.3.2 in 3D graphics, most likely due to the new graphics drivers. 10.3.3 is slower at startup by our measurements than 10.3 but it does not need the SpeedStart patch like 10.3.2. The rest is about the same. People have posted to the web that 10.3.3 seems a lot faster than 10.3.2 but it is likely that they are either commenting on startup relative to 10.3.2 without SpeedStart or are just noticing the benefits of a fresh install and reboot. 10.3.3 is slightly faster on a fast machine but only in 3D graphics. We would also add that Mail subjectively seems faster to us with the 10.3.3 update to v1.3.4.
QuakeCon 2004 Officially Announced--August 12-15: QuakeCon and id Software have updated their web sites to include the official announcement of QuakeCon 2004. The gaming event will be August 12-15 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas. Registration will begin on April 14th. Here is an excerpt from id Software's press release:
For more information, check out the official QuakeCon web site.
-- Weekend, March 20-21 --
[Update 9a ET 3/20] Thornton Academy will Provide iBooks to All Students: Thornton Academy, a private high school in Maine, plans to give all of its students iBooks in a program comparable to the State of Maine's according to this Portland Press Herald article. Thornton will be the first high school to give all of its students and teachers an iBook. The State of Maine currently gives iBooks to just 7th and 8th graders but has plans to add the 9th grade in high school. The program will cost $3M to start and $900,000 per year to maintain. [Dana Baggett]
Pangea Released Otto Matic 2.0, Announced Bugdom 2.0 & Shipped Nanosaur 2 CD: Pangea Software, Inc.,has released Otto Matic 2.0, announced that Bugdom 2 2.0 will be coming soon, and has started shipping the CD version of Nanosaur 2.
Otto Matic and Bugdom 2 have both been updated to version 2.0 because they now support 3D anaglyph glasses. “Once we had the 3D glasses working in Nanosaur 2, it was fairly easy to pop the code into some of our older games so that they could also be played in true stereo 3D,” said Brian Greenstone, president of Pangea Software, “Since Otto Matic is a game all about 1950’s sci-fi B-movies, it only made sense that we put the 3D glasses support into that game first.”
The 2.0 update is available free to all owners of older versions of the game, and it can be downloaded from the Pangea Software web site. The 2.0 update for Bugdom 2 will be available in about a week, and that too will be a free update for all existing Bugdom 2 owners. “Bugdom 2 has some of the best 3D in-your-face effects, so the 3D glasses really make it fun”, said Greenstone, “Seeing a spinning pinecone floating right in front of you is quite a trip!”
Weekend Fun--Check Out Your Neighbor's Political Campaign Contributions: The information is available from the web site fundrace.org according to this AP news article. Just click "Neighbor Search" and enter your zip code in the box. It works! [Dana Baggett]
-- TGIF, March 19 --
Micromat (MM) posted the availability of TechTool Pro 4.0.2 (TTP4) on this MM web page. No download updaters from v4.0.1 have been posted so far on the MM web site. An Update CD can be purchased for $24.97. No description of the changes to the application have been posted so far, except to note that the new CD "contains [the] latest version of TechTool Pro 4 and latest systems." An update feature from within the TTP4 application doesn't recognize the availability of TTP4 v.4.0.2 when we checked.
As readers may recall from our original review of v4.0.1 on December 4, 2003, one of our biggest problems was booting from the TTP4 v.4.0.1 CD which contained a version of Panther - Mac OS X 10.3 - that Apple licenses to developers. It took six attempts before we were finally able to boot from the CD. The same sequence of events was reproducible; it took several more attempts before the upgraded G4 Cube would boot again. And, it took several minutes before it finished booting once it finally started.
MM did pay attention to my report to its technical staff and spent weeks running down possible explanations. Collaboratively, we finally determined that it was the version of Mac OS X 10.3 on the CD that was the culprit. MM promised to send me an upgrade CD gratis when it became available. It arrived today, having been mailed from Santa Rosa, CA, on March 15.
The CD has Mac OS X 10.3.2 on it and it booted successfully in about three minutes on my Cube with a 1 GHz Powerlogix CPU upgrade installed. My recollection is that on the rare occasion when it did boot from the TTP4 v.4.0.1 CD, the process took twice that long to complete; MM advised at the time that booting from the CD could take as long as ten minutes. Hopefully, that issue has been resolved for everyone.
After installing the revised application on the internal hard drive from the CD, TTP4 asks that one enter their registration number. If one wants to perform some tests, however, one has to run the application from the CD or the innovative eDrive. The primary advantage of installing TTP4 on one's hard drive is to facilitate booting into the eDrive. The only way to install the eDrive is from the CD once one has booted from it. And it is necessary to remove a prior eDrive before installing the latest version. Those procedures went well. Installing the eDrive really eliminates the need to boot from the CD unless the computer becomes unbootable from the internal hard drive altogether. Once booted into the eDrive, TTP4 v.4.0.2 opened up and asked for a registration number. I sighed from relief.
The application itself hasn't changed much, in appearance at least. The Suites category of tests is no longer the default status, a desirable change in our opinion. One can choose to launch any of five categories of tests. I ran the Intermediate Suite of tests and they finished rather rapidly. I optimized the directory structures which again took only a few minutes. Volume Optimization took longer, about 30 min with 1600 frags, but completed without incident.
Our major concern with Drive 10's Volume Optimization was that it allowed one to cut short Volume Optimization without any warning of dire consequences. That is not a problem in TTP4 v.4.0.2. I attempted to stop Volume Optimization after it apparently completed - one frag left - but hadn't stopped running. Now a drop down warning appears to indicate that you have to wait until the procedure finishes before you can shut down or move to another test. You can push the stop button but nothing happens. And, apparently, you can't Force Quit either.
To sum up, if one could not boot reliably from the original TTP4 v.4.0.1 CD, the upgrade v.4.0.2 CD may resolve the issue--it did for me. If you thought the initial version of the application was slow, you may find v.4.0.2 runs a bit faster--I did.
In any event, TTP4 is a useful utility for maintenance and emergency repair.
Check Out the GDC 2004 Special Events: The Game Developers Conference 2004 is next week in San Jose, CA. Our West Coast reporter, Brian Nakamoto plans to be there for a Hands-On Report. Here are the special events:
-- Thursday, March 18 --
Apple Developer Connection Launches the ADC Reference Library: The Apple Developer Connection has launched the ADC Reference Library, a powerful new developer support tool that makes it easier than ever to use the repository of technical information and sample code available from Apple. The Reference Library integrates into one highly functional interface the core ADC technical resources: documentation, technical notes, sample code, release notes, and technical Q&As. It also delivers advanced filtering, sorting, and browsing functionality, so developers can find the documents they need in the ways that best fit their work style. Read more about it in Making the Most of the ADC Reference Library.
You might also check out the in-depth info and practical training that Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference provides. It's coming up June 28th and an early bird registration includes a $300 discount.
Apple's "More memory for less" Promo to End March 27th: The best time to get a new iMac, Power Mac G4, or Power Mac G5 is right now since you'll want to add extra RAM. For a limited time you can save up to $700 when you power one up to maximum capacity. Get special RAM upgrades on all qualifying desktop systems when you custom-configure one at the Apple Store by March 27. Save up to $50 on each 256MB RAM module, up to $150 on each 512MB RAM module, or up to $50 on each 1GB RAM module added to your system.
Mesh Networking Coming to WiFi? What is it? WiFi may get military-developed mesh networking to extend WiFi substantially from its normal 300-foot reach according to this USA Today article.
Basically, it sounds like using peer-to-peer networking in combination with WiFi access points. [Dana Baggett]
For further information about this update, please see this Apple article.
-- Wednesday, March 17 --
Paypal Warns of Phishing Expeditions by Scammers: Paypal is an on line payment service. Apparently, scammers have managed to get some information on some Paypal customers by scamming a few merchants according to this Washington Post article carried on Yahoo News.They didn't get any financial information but they could use what they got to fool a Paypal client into divulging such information through so-called phishing scams using phony forms rigged to look like Paypal emails.
Paypal repeated its advice to never, ever give out ANY information to such requests. Paypal never sends out such requests. Only update your information by starting directly on Paypal's home page and getting a secure server, not one redirected from an email even if it looks like one from Paypal.
We get several of these phony Paypal phishing scam letters per week. We also get other scams trying to get credit card information so the scammers are not confined to Paypal by any means. [Dana Baggett]
The combo updaters will update any version of Mac OS X 10.3.x to 10.3.3.
MPAA Enlisting States to Pursue Internet File Sharing? Maybe, according to this New York Times article carried on Excite News. A Motion Picture Association of America vice preseident reportedly drafted a postion paper on the issue of the liability of companies that produce file sharing software being used for illegal purposes for the California attorney general. Hmmm...this sounds pretty dubious to us since almost anything can be used by someone for an illegal purpose. [Dana Baggett]
Nanosaur II: Hatchling v1.0.3 Update is Out and available for download via MacUpdate.com. Nanosaur 2 is the recently-released real 3D game from Pangea Software. Totally different and improved from the original for Mac OS X, it's outstanding!
Apple Fan Control Update 1.0 for G5s and Jaguar (Mac OS X 10.2.7/8) was released late Monday and is available for download from this Apple web page. We overlooked it in the mad rush to try out the 10.3.3 updater on many different Macs and 'Books. Fan Control Update 1.0 improves the performance of Power Mac G5 fans when using Mac OS X 10.2.7 or 10.2.8.
-- Tuesday, March 16 --
Hands-On Report--Mac OS X 10.3.3 Update for Client and Server: Early yesterday evening, Apple released the latest updates for Panther, v 10.3.3 Build 7F44. The updates, available via the Software Update preference pane, are large, 59 MB for the client edition and 71 MB for the server edition of Panther. The standalone client updater is available from this Apple web page and the server updater from this Apple web page.
The 10.3.3 Client Update delivers significantly enhanced functionality and improved reliability for Mac OS X v10.3 "Panther" and is recommended for all users. The key enhancements include:
Mail is updated to v1.3.4 and Safari to v1.2.1.
We applied the update to 12" and 17" PowerBook G4s, G4 Cubes, a G3 iBook and a Power Mac G5, all with no problems. We forgot to remove the SpeedStart patch but that appears to not be a problem. Startup in 10.3.3 seems as fast or faster than the patched 10.3.2. We like the added feature of shared volume icons appearing in the sidebar with the eject button that appears next to it to disconnect--much more logical than using the "gear" button. There appear to be new ATI and Nvidia graphics drivers with a March 7, 2004, modification date.
Detailed information on the client update is available from this Apple KBase article. They include:
Networking and .Mac enhancements
DVD Player enhancements
The 10.3.3 Server Update also delivers enhanced functionality and improved reliability for Mac OS X Server v10.3 and is recommended for all systems. The parts updated include: Open Directory (Directory Services), Network Services, General Networking, File Services, System Imaging (NetBoot/Network Install), Printing, Mail Service, Web Services, QuickTime Streaming Server, Server Administration Tools, Application Server, Finder and Disk Utility (AppleRAID). The key enhancements include:
The detailed information on the server update is available from this Apple KBase article. Pay special attention to the note about MySQL before applying the updater.
We updated our copy of Mac OS X 10.3 Server running on a stock G4 Cube with no problems.
The iPod has Become an Icon in the UK as 50 Million Songs Sold world wide from the iTunes Music Store according to this Scotsman.com article and this Apple press release. Songs from the iTMS are now selling at a weekly rate that converts to 130 million per year. [Dana Baggett]
Keep Up to Date on AppleWorks Development: AppleWorks is Apple's terrific but somewhat neglected productivity suite. Do you want to keep up with the latest news about AppleWorks? Then all you have to do is to sign up for the AppleWorks Users Group's free "AppleWorks News Service" and AWUG will automatically deliver all the important AppleWorks news right to your email mailbox. To register, go to AWUG's web site and click on "AWUG's AppleWorks News Service."
From the Dark Side--M$ Faces $3 Billion Fine from EU and other restrictions on how it sells its software in Europe according to this Scotsman.com article. The EU Commission's draft decision has found Microsoft guilty of illegal monopolistic practices in Europe--surprise, surprise. However, it appears that the EU will have the guts to invoke commensurate penalties unlike the U.S. District Court. The fine up to $3 billion is the least of the possible penalties which include separating Windows Media Player from the Windows OS and making more details of its server applications available to competitors for a reasonable royalty. [Dana Baggett]
-- Monday, March 15 --
Hands-On Book Review--"Apple Confidential 2.0" by Owen Linzmayer: We reviewed version 1.0 of Apple Confidential in February of 2000. Our assessment of v1.0 was:
This, of course, applies to Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company as well, even though version 2.0 is significantly revised. It has over 60 pages of new material and hundreds of new photos, quotes, illustrations and timelines. Version 1.0 left off in 1999 with Apple's business rising, saved by the iMac, and the introduction of Mac OS 9. The new version adds material through 2003.
The additional material is not found in just a few additional chapters but throughout the book with illustrations that have been brought up to date. The book follows Steve Jobs into NeXT and Pixar and adds what has happened to Pixar as well as Apple. The timeline for Macs is extended through the Power Mac G5 and iBook G4. Covered also is the release of the iPod and the iApps.
Apple Confidential 2.0 generally moves forward from the origin of Apple Computer in Steve Jobs' bedroom, not the family garage, but it is not written as a strict timeline through the chapters. It pauses on topics which are covered from their origin through today, like the Copeland project to develop the next generation Mac OS, ultimately turning out Mac OS X. There are special topic chapters like the 1984 Super Bowl ad for the Macintosh. Each of Apple's CEOs, Jobs, John Sculley, Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio is treated with their own chapter.
All in all, Apple Confidential 2.0 is an outstanding book for Macophiles and non-Macophiiles alike. It is a joy to read and we highly recommend it. Version 2.0 builds so significantly on 1.0, that we even recommend it to those who have already read v1.0. [Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colorful Company by Owen M. Lintzmayer, 2004, No Starch Press, MSRP $19.95 ($13.97 from Amazon.com)]
Bing Gordon to Keynote IGDA Developer Business Summit at GDC 2004: Bing Gordon is Executive VP and Chief Creative Officer for Electronic Arts. Despite the overall growth and progress of the games industry, there are countless issues and barriers that must be dealt with in order for the business of games to truly succeed. While there is no question that studios are in this business to make great games, there are meta-level business issues that need to be explored and discussed in a pragmatic manner. This will happen at the Game Developers Conference 2004 March 22-26 in San Jose, CA.
The IGDA Developer Business Summit provides a rare opportunity for studio heads, publishing executives and other industry leaders to come together in a neutral forum and work out solutions to some of the biggest issues facing game development studios today, which are:
This is an advanced, expert level program. The IGDA Developer Business Summit is intended for industry veterans managing game development studios, publisher executives, and other industry leaders who care about the strength and future growth of their companies and the game industry as a whole.
Apple's WWDC 2004 to have Application Technologies Track: There are seven content tracks at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2004 this June 28-July2 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA.
Mac OS X provides a wealth of technologies that make it easy for you to create reliable, high-performing, great-looking, and easy-to-use products for your customers. Whether you are using Apple’s own powerful application frameworks, Cocoa or Carbon, or one of many other development options on the platform, in this track you’ll get expert guidance on the best design, development, optimization techniques, and UI practices for creating outstanding software applications.
You’ll learn how to utilize the platform’s extensive Accessibility APIs to provide elegant features to users with special needs and to leverage the platform’s built-in internationalization and localization services to deliver great products quickly to users around the world. You’ll also discover how to take advantage of high-level networking and Internet technologies to incorporate Web browsing and Internet connectivity capabilities in your applications.
Read about the other six WWDC 2004 content tracks.
-- Weekend, March 13-14 --
Apple Forms Waiting List for WWDC Student Scholarships Worth $1595: The application deadline for student scholarships to Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference 2004 in San Francisco, CA, June 28 through July 2 passed on Friday, March 12, but interested students may submit a no-cost application to be on the waiting list accessible from the Student Developers page. They must have a PDF version of their resume on hand, because they’ll need to upload it as part of the application form.
To be eligible for a scholarship to WWDC 2004 worth $1595, one must be currently enrolled as a part-time or full-time student at a college or university, have a student identification number, and be at least 18 years of age. Once the application has been submitted, the applicant will be sent a confirmation email with instructions regarding verification of their student status.
Students who submitted applications prior to the March 12 deadline will receive notification of their status by March 31. Students submitting applications after March 12 will receive a status notification in April.
Apple's Ron Johnson to Keynote Success by Design Conference: Ron Johnson is Apple's Senior Vice President of Retail. He will deliver the luncheon keynote at the Success by Design Conference to be held April 22nd in Providence, RI. Johnson will describe how design principles unify branding, merchandising, marketing and people to deliver the best buying experience on the planet, and why an Apple store is coming to a neighborhood near you. [Dana Baggett]
.Mac Members Get Over 100 Free Panther QuickTime Tutorials: If you are a .Mac member, Apple has posted over 100 QuickTime tutorials on Panther (Mac OS X 10.3.x) for you.We're pleased to announce that The tutorials which are Apple's own training for Mac OS X v10.3 Panther are now available exclusively to .Mac members via the .Mac Learning Center. One course covers the Mac OS X Fundamentals, including important new features like the new Sidebar in Finder windows and the amazing Exposé for window and desktop management. A second course focuses on Mac OS X Daily Productivity, encompassing iCal, Mail, Address Book, Safari, iChat, and more.
.Mac Members Get 25% Discount on Pangea Software's Nanosaur II: Hatchling: The folks at Pangea Software have released an impressive follow-up to their 1998 arcade-style hit Nanosaur, and they're offering .Mac members a special trial version with access to three levels of play, plus a 25 percent discount for all who decide to buy. Built for Mac OS X, Nanosaur II: Hatchling delivers amazing graphics, brand new two-player modes, and more, plus support for 3D glasses for a truly immersive experience. With the discount, the full download version is $18.75 and the boxed version with 2 pairs of red/cyan 3D glasses is $26.25, both deals are good until May 19th.
-- TGIF, March 12 --
Apple Posted Free Sample WWDC 2003 Sessions in QuickTime: Have you never attended Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference? Well, you can find out just what it's like and learn a lot too. Apple has posted a number of sample sessions from WWDC 2003 that only require QuickTime 6 or later. Here are the sample sessions:
See them from this Apple web page. You can see even more by signing up with the Apple Developer Connection.
Adobe Photoshop CS One-on-One is designed to make the enormous task of mastering Photoshop pleasant, manageable, and rewarding. It's the first in a series of highly visual, full-color titles that combine step-by-step lessons with two hours of video instruction. The book contains twelve lessons, each made up of three to six exercises, illustrated with more than 600 photos, diagrams, and screen shots. Each book-based lesson comes with a corresponding video lesson, included on a companion CD. The exercises are project-based, culminating in real-world projects that readers can show off when they've finished.
We have used Speed Download and can confirm that in many cases it does substantially increase the speed of downloads. The current version is optimized for both dialup and broadband connections.
What's new in SD 2.3.2:
Speed Download 2.3.2 can be downloaded from Yazsoft's web page.
Apple's Tutorial--Using the Panther Web Kit for Application Registration: The Web Kit, included in Mac OS X v.10.3 Panther, is software that provides a set of programming classes to display web content in an application's window. You can use the Web Kit for a wide range of web-based tasks without writing much (if any) code. This ADC feature article shows you how to add web-based registration capability to your application and also provides sample source code the handle the registation back end.
Microsoft, AOL, Earthlink and Yahoo Go After Spammers with lawsuits according to this AP article on Excite. The combined legal staffs are about to pounce on dozens of the most egregious spammers, Earthlink alone is after 75, according to the news account using the new Federal anti-spam law. Their lawsuits were filed in federal courts in the states of California, Georgia, Virginia and Washington. [Dana Baggett]
-- Thursday, March 11 --
NEW! Apple Nvidia fCode Flasher 1.1 Posted: Yes, it's REALLY new. We noted last week (3/3) that Apple posted this updater for Nvidia graphics cards in Macs and that it updated the firmware of our GeForce2 MX cards in our G4 Cubes to v1057.011. The reposted version updates the firmware to v1057.019 so if you did it before, you may want to do it again--we did. [Dana Baggett]
Game--Nanosaur II: Hatchling is Out in Final: Pangea Software, Inc., officially released their latest Macintosh game, Nanosaur II: Hatchling. Nanosaur 2 is available for immediate download from several sources including the Pangea Software web site, Mac Game Files, and your iDisk. Apple’s .Mac customers who download the full version of the game from their iDisk get a special bonus: they can play additional levels in demo mode.
The download version of Nanosaur 2 runs in a limited demo mode until a serial number is purchased for $24.95. The boxed CD version of Nanosaur 2 will start shipping on March 19th, but pre-orders are now being taken on the Pangea Software web site. The CD version costs $34.95, and comes with two pairs of red/cyan 3D glasses. The game also works with shutter lenses on CRT monitors.
Last weekend, we downloaded the inadvertently-released beta version and played it. The original Nanosaur, released free on the early iMacs, is one of our all time favorite computer games. Unfortunately, it didn't make it to Mac OS X. But in comparison, Nanosaur 2 is terrific, clearly the best yet from Pangea Software. The color and rendering is fabulous. We haven't found a set of red/cyan 3D glasses yet to check out that feature.
Two Laptop Programs, One Successful and One Struggling, are described in this DistrictAdministration article. The successful one is Maine's iBook program, of course. The other is Michigan's Hewlett Packard PC notebook program. Also highlighted is the successful Henrico County, VA, iBook program. [Dana Baggett]
Prolong Your Lithium-Ion Batteries: If you just got a new Powerbook or iPod, regular or mini, it has a lithium ion battery. Here is an excellent article on BatteryUniversity.com that tells you all about those batteries and offers tips to prolong their life. [Dana Baggett]
ComputerWorld Favorably Reviewed Dual 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5 in this article. The dual 1.8 GHz costs $500 less than the top-end dual 2 GHz Power Mac G5--you get a lesser video card but everything else is the same. Most people won't notice the difference in CPU and Frontside Bus speeds so one might take the $500 difference and buy some more RAM and either a top-end ATI 9800 Pro graphics card if you are a gamer or a fast 10,000 RPM serial ATA hard drive if you aren't. [Dana Baggett]
-- Wednesday, March 10 --
Here is what's new:
Dana installed the updated drivers with no problem.
Hitachi Will Announce Monster 400 GB Hard Drive This Week according to this ZDNet article. The 400 GB drive will rotate at 7200 RPM and will come with either a standard parallel or new serial interface. The drive is for video or corporate data storage. [Dana Baggett]
PortalPlayer Inc. Provides Apple's iPod Innards according to this Forbes article on Yahoo News. The Santa Clara, CA, company was founded by a few former National Semiconductor executives. It makes the electronic components and firmware for Apple's iPod and gets $15 for each iPod sold, now over 2 million. [Dana Baggett]
WiFi Wireless Networking is on the Move Upward and Outward This Year: This Cnet article covers the emerging standards of 802.11n, 802.11i and 802.11e plus 802.16. Their speed will reach 108 Mbps and their range will reach 30 miles, most in this year. [Dana Baggett]
-- Tuesday, March 9 --
Apple's WWDC 2004 Continues Enterprise IT Track: According to Apple, their products have captured the attention of IT organizations wanting to develop and deploy open source and standards-based solutions into their heterogeneous environments. The Enterprise IT track at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2004 is designed for professionals focused on the requirements of an IT environment, including: in-house developers, system administrators, IT managers, and commercial application developers targeting the enterprise.
The sessions will provide in-depth information and expert guidance on developing, deploying, and managing enterprise applications and solutions. Products to be covered include Mac OS X, Mac OS X Server, Xserve and Xserve RAID storage array. Among the many topics addressed are Java, WebObjects, Directory Services, cross-platform application development, system deployment, integration and administration, and Apple’s participation and efforts in the open source community. Check it out.
New Cheat-Free Caps in Pepsi-iTunes Promotion? The reporter on this Mac web site thinks maybe so. They have photos of two different types of Pepsi-iTunes contest bottle caps, one with smaller font and a more obscure seal over the lettering. They call this one "new" and speculate that it was released by Pepsi in response to the cheat posted on MacMerc, i.e. tilting the bottle to read under the cap to see if one has a winner or not.
Well, despite the possibility we don't think so. The web site's "new" cap is the only type that we have found in our area since we first set out to look for them on the Saturday following the Super Bowl. We have not yet found the "old" less cheat resistant type in our area. Perhaps that explains why we have been skeptical of the cheat from the beginning. Our "blind" record is 19 winners out of 29 bottles.
The cap labelled "old" looks like it would be much easier to read through the bleary plastic bottle covered with condensation on the outside and residual Pepsi on the inside. So it is possble that Pepsi itself discovered the cheat while making the first run of contest caps and alterred them but still distributed the more cheatable caps already made up. Anything is possible, as we all know, except that the less cheatable caps were not made only after the cheat was revealed on the internet.
Coca Cola has Music Store and Win-a-Song Promo in UK according to this DMBulletin article. But it's not really a Coca Cola music store:
Songs cost 99p but they can't be downloaded with a Mac according to the web site MyCokeMusic.com. There's no mention of such a promo on Coca Cola's U.S. web site but you can download several free MP3 songs from an extensive Coke music area. [Dana Baggett]
-- Monday, March 8 --
Hands-On Review--Skin-Tight Mini Skin for the iPod mini: Speck Products is one of the first companies out of the starting blocks with an accessory for the new iPod mini. We have previously favorably reviewed iPod FlipStands and iPod Skins from Speck Products. The Skin-Tight Mini Skin is a translucent rubberized case that slips over the iPod mini to protect it from scratches, slips and bumps.
The Mini Skin comes in five translucent colors: clear, gold, blue, pink and lime green. It has a lanyard attached to the top that can be easily removed if one wishes. According to Speck Products, the Mini Skin is made from flexible KRATON plastic that feels like silicone rubber to us. The Mini Skin slips onto the iPod mini through a small cutout in the bottom.
We got the clear model for our silver iPod mini. The Mini Skin slipped on our iPod mini with the appropriate measure of difficulty, giving us the clear impression that the iPod mini will never slip out accidentally. The cutouts in the top allow the headphones to be attached and the "Hold" switch to be actuated with no difficulty. Same with the iPod mini's scroll wheel and screen--the cutouts are perfect.
We like the feel of the KRATON plastic. Our iPod mini will not accidentally slip out of our hand easily and, if it does, it is protected. We weren't foolish enough to drop our iPod mini to find out how good the protection is but we expect it to survive if ever dropped accidentally.
The lanyard is a good idea. In our review of our iPod mini, we noted that we are a bit leery of the snap-in case that comes with it and worn on a belt. We're afraid of our iPod mini being ejected from the case if we lean while sitting. The iPod mini is so small and light that it really will fit in a shirt pocket unobtrusively and the lanyard will insure it never drops if somehow it's ejected from the shirt pocket. The lanyard is easily removed if not wanted.
The only drawback that we see is that the iPod mini will not fit into a mini dock when completely in a Mini Skin. However, the bottom of the Mini Skin can be rolled up a bit with little difficulty to allow the iPod mini to sit in a mini dock.
We really like our Mini Skin and it has found a permanent home on our iPod mini. The Skin-Tight Mini Skin is $19.95 from Speck Products.
TIP--Fixing Virtual PC's Speed in Panther: We have used Virtual PC, orginally by Connectix and now by Microsoft, since it first came out. It saved our Mac bacon in the workplace many times over in the early years of the IT group converting to Windows NT Server from Novell and the mass move to Windows 95 as their platform of choice. Company software applications were rewritten in Microsoft Access and other proprietary Microsoftian formats that only Windows 95/98/2000 could use. A modest group of us managed to hang onto our Macs by using Virtual PC and Connectix's other major product, DoubleTalk. We certainly hope the founders of Connectix got rich--it is their due.
Microsoft now owns Virtual PC and all of the applications in our day-job workplace are web-based. They are largely platform agnostic thanks, at least in part, to a very strong and broad resistance to replacing Netscape/Mozilla as the standard web browser with Microsoft's Internet Explorer and its evil-inspired proprietary quirks. Due to this, Mac OS X and a resurgence of various Unixes due to security issues, we no longer use Virtual PC except for a few applications where there are no alternatives to Windows. One those exceptions is Garmin's MapSource software for our Street Pilot III and eTrex Vista GPS equipment.
Garmin steadfastly refuses to produce Mac-compatible software. This was probably a sane market decision quite awhile ago but we hope that Garmin will rethink this at some time in the near future. While software like MacGPS Pro can import maps, geographical data and work with waypoints and the like in Mac OS X, one still needs Virtual PC and a USB-Serial adapter to communicate with your Garmin GPS unit.
Now to the point of this note. Since the last time we used Virtual PC to update our GPS units, Virtual PC has gone from v5.0.x to 6.1.1 and Mac OS X has gone from 10.2.x to 10.3.2. When we fired up Virtual PC v5.0.4 and launched Windows XP, it was incredibly slow and choked to a halt before getting to the desktop. A similar thing happened with our Windows ME and Windows 95 vitual machines. They got a little further, i.e. to the desktop, but both were excruciatingly slow and ground to a halt while trying to populate the desktop with application icons.
At first, we thought this must be due to VPC 5.0.4 being incompatible with Panther (Mac OS X 10.3.2) and begrudgingly bought Microsoft's v6.1 Upgrade. The box says VPC 6.1 needs 10.2.6 or higher but does not mention Panther. It didn't help. In fact, after the upgrade our Windows ME and 95 virtual machines wouldn't even launch and XP was even slower, hardly showing more than a couple of frames of the splash screen before crapping out. The recent VPC 6.1.1 updater didn't help either.
After hours of hunting down and trashing every vestige of VPC, which is extremely hard to do by the way, and reinstalling it and the virtual machines on two differnt computers with the same results, we finally did something smart. We went to MacWindows.com and read their reader notes on VPC 6.1. Sure enough, some people had written that they also had the same problem with VPC and Panther but disconcertingly some wrote back that they did not. Some wrote that they had fixed the slowness problem by eliminating this and that conflicting software, none of which we had installed on either computer...until we found one who mentioned Safari. His claim was that somehow running Safari "poisoned" things for VPC under Panther. His suggested fix was a reboot of the Mac and to not launch Safari until one was finished with Virtual PC.
We almost never reboot Mac OS X and use Safari almost exclusively on all of our computers. Safari is even automatically launched at login. We were highly skeptical but desperate so we gave it a try. We rebooted and launched VPC without launching Safari or any application for that matter. Amazingly and thankfully, it worked! In fact, VPC 6.1.1 running Windows XP, ME or 95 is much zippier than VPC 5.0.4 was under Jaguar (10.2.x).
But the scientist in us asked if we could cause a repeat of the problem by launching and running Safari. Nope. After launching and running Safari for a few hours, all of the three Windows virtual machines still launched and ran spritely on our 1 GHZ 17" PowerBook G4 under VPC 6.1.1. We have yet to have a repeat of the extreme slowness but we'll try again after a few days and weeks of running Safari.
So there you have it, rebooting our Macs and launching Virtual PC before launching any other application cured our problem of extremely slow running of VPC under Panther, Mac OS X 10.3.2. But YMMV since we could not cause a repeat of the problem.
Maine 8th Graders Take Statewide Test Online with iBooks according to this MaineToday.com article. This year about 60 Maine schools decided to allow their eighth grade students to take the Maine Educational Assessment online using the iBooks in the Maine program that has given every seventh and eighth grader an iBook to use. About two-thirds of the students preferred to take the test with the iBooks. Teachers expect using the iBooks will improve the scores. [Dana Baggett]
-- Weekend, March 6-7 --
[Update 11:30p ET 3/6] "Nanosaur II: Hatchling" Demo is Out and available for download from MacUpdate.com. It's a 32.7 MB file. MacUpdate.com has two mirrors and we got our copy at a reasonable speed. According to Pangeasoft,
Nanosaur 2 looks terrific and we're learning how to fly the Nanosaur. Now we need to find a pair of 3D glasses. The final version is due out March 10.
O'Reilly Releases "Dreamweaver MX 2004: The Missing Manual" Once again, renowned Dreamweaver writer and teacher David Sawyer McFarland has teamed with Missing Manual creator David Pogue to produce "the" user guide for the popular Dreamweaver MX--this time for the 2004 release. Their new "Dreamweaver MX 2004: The Missing Manual" (Pogue Press/O'Reilly, US $34.95) gives web designers all the tools and techniques they need to get their work onto the Web faster and more professionally and bring stunning, interactive web sites to life.
WiFi Free at Irish Airports Through June: The Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports will have free WiFi through June to celebrate Ireland's presidency of the EU Council of Ministers according to this electricnews.net article. [Dana Baggett]
Feral Interactive Releases Input Calibrator for Their Games: According to Feral, one of the many joys of publishing games for the Mac is making sure that they work perfectly with the most popular input devices, such as steering wheels, joysticks and gamepads. Because of the, shall-we-say, infinitely variable nature of such devices - this has been a hard, not to say impossible thing to do.
Well the clever people at Zonic have been hard at work on a solution and have created a utility specifically to work with our Mac games, Input Calibrator. This lets you improve the input control for any supported game. Our first two games to enjoy such support are Rayman 3 and Total Immersion Racing. The utility is included in the updaters on both games that are released today.
Griffin Technology's Free Final Vinyl v1.1 is Out and available for download. Griffin Technology, Inc. announced the release of Final Vinyl version 1.1. Final Vinyl software allows the recording of vinyl records using just the Griffin iMic or PowerWave and a turntable.
This is also the problem with our local supermarkets which do not stock the 20 oz bottles.
-- TGIF, March 5 --
That's a deal, only about 71 cents per 20 oz bottle. Buying a bottle here and there in convenience stores for $1.20-1.30 each, we have found 18 winners out of 27 tries.
U.S. Protested Different Chinese WiFi Standard: A letter was sent from three top U.S. Government officials protesting China's pending adoption of the non-standard Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) standard for WiFi (like AirPort) wireless networking in China according to this RCR Wireless News article. The WAPI standard, set to be implemented June 1, will put U.S. firms like Apple at a competitive disadvantage. It will also confound interoperability for those traveling to China. [Dana Baggett]
Tonight on The Mac Night Owl LIVE, "Mr. Gadget" and Mr. TidBITS: This week, The Mac Night Owl LIVE will feature Steve Kruschen, the technology wizard known as "Mr. Gadget." Steve will be on hand to talk about the iPod mini and the latest tech gadgets. We'll also have a return visit from Adam Engst, well known author and publisher of TidBITS. Tune in at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT)
O'Reilly Releases "Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks": Hacking code on a Mac is similar to hacking code on other Unix systems, but there are important, sometimes subtle, differences. Hence Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks, was written by Brian Jepson and Ernest E. Rothman to bridge the Unix-Panther gap not only for Unix developers and sys admins, but also for web developers, Unix hackers, and programmers who switched to Linux from a non-Unix platform.
Recommended by Apple Developer Connection, this concise new edition has been revised and expanded to cover Mac OS X Panther, notably CUPS, Perl, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and running Mac OS X as a server. Mac OS X Panther for Unix Geeks, O'Reilly, US $24.95
Willow Design Extends Final Order Period to March 10: Nigel Peck wrote us that they will continue to take orders for their outstanding custom cases and backpacks until March 10 due to the huge demand that surfaced when he announced Willow Design's intent to close down on February 29th.
-- Thursday, March 4 --
AppleCare Protection Plan Covers iPod mini: Even though it is not mentioned anywhere that we could find on Apple's iPod mini web page or the Apple Store, the AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod also applies to the iPod mini. Dana Baggett got it straight from Apple, "I called the AppleCare 800 number and inquired whether AppleCare for iPods includes the iPod Mini. Answer: Yes." For $59, the AppleCare Protection Plan for iPod provides an additional 21 months of phone support and an additional year of hardware repair coverage for a total of 2 years.
IMSA Encryption and Authentication Specification 1.0 Announced: The internet Streaming Media Alliance (IMSA) anounced their very first content protection specification under the new Board according to this digitalWEBCAST article. Apple is a member as is AOL, Sun Microsystems, ContentGuard, IBM, Envivio, and VBrick. [Dana Baggett]
Apple Fixed Dual 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5 Noises according to this CNet article. Apparently, a small number of new dual 1.8 GHz Power Mac G5s made hissing and beeping noises through professional audio equipment. Apple reported that the problem has been fixed in production. [Dan Baggett]
-- Wednesday, March 3 --
"iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual, Second Edition" Released by O'Reilly: This updated guide by J. D. Biersdorfer covers iTunes for Mac and Windows and the new iPod Mini. As well as playing music, the book includes a collection of useful tips, tricks, and shortcuts for using your iPod, like these:
Apple iDVD 4.0.1 Update is Out and available for download via the Software Update preference pane or as a stand alone installer from this Apple KBase article. According to Apple,
We downloaded and installed it with no apparent problems. [Dana Baggett]
Apple NVIDIA fCode Flasher 1.1 Update is Out and available for download. [Link updated.] According to Apple, this NVIDIA graphics card firmware update is for the GeForce2 MX, GeForce2 MX TwinView, GeForce3 and GeForce4 MX cards. From the ReadMe file,
We downloaded and installed it with no problem on two G4 Cubes, both with GeForce2 MX cards and Cinema Displays but neither is an HD display. It updated the card's firmware from v1055 to v1057.011. [Dana Baggett]
Free WiFi Internet Coming to Some Airports according to this USA Today article. Many large airports now provide WiFi internet access for a fee of $7-10 in their terminals. But some smaller airports and one large airport are or are planning to provide it for free. They include Long Beach, CA; Colorado Springs; Columbia, SC; Lansing, MI; Asheville, NC; Tri-Cities in Blountsvilee, TN; and Ft Wayne, IN. The large airport is Pittsburgh. [Dana Baggett]
-- Tuesday, March 2 --
Apple Announced WWDC 2004 Student Scholarship Program: With its Worldwide Developer Conference 2004 (WWDC 2004) registration officially underway, Apple is offering student developers a super opportunity to attend the conference on scholarship. Student developers can apply for a scholarship online.
Students applying for a scholarship should have a PDF resume on hand to upload as part of the application process. Applications for the student scholarships must be submitted by 5:00 pm Pacific time, Friday, March 12, 2004.
Winners of a student scholarship receive a free student e-Ticket to WWDC, a US$1,595 value.
To be eligible for a scholarship to WWDC 2004, applicants must be currently enrolled as a part-time or full-time student at a college or university, have a student identification number, and be at least 18 years of age.
Apple AirPort 3.1.1 Update for Mac OS X 10.3.x is Out and available for download from this Apple KBase article. For some reason, it hasn't shown up yet in our Software Update preference pane. According to Apple,
Belkin Releases Universal Microphone Adapter (F8E478): You can now achieve high quality recordings on your iPod player. By connecting your own external microphone via the Belkin Universal Microphone Adapter (F8E478) to your iPod, recordings of your conversations, lectures, interviews, or memos will be cleaner and clearer. You can also listen to these recordings with your headphones or powered speakers. This Adapter will begin shipping on March 17 in North America for $39.99.
The Universal Microphone Adapter connects to your iPod and to any audio microphone with a 3.5mm plug. You can use the iPod player's abundant storage capacity to store hundreds of hours of audio, and easily review your audio notes using the built-in 3.5mm jack with headphones or your computer. Copy recordings to your computer for easy storage, editing, or to send in e-mail.
The Universal Microphone Adapter is an alternative to another Belkin recording device, the Voice Recorder for iPod, which offers a built-in microphone and speaker.
“We listened to feedback from our customers who wanted a better way to record their lectures and interviews,” notes Joe Jaconi, Sr. Business Unit Manager. “This Universal Microphone Adapter gives iPod users a superb way to both record and play these back.”
-- Monday, March 1 --
Apple Hardware Technologies Track at WWDC 2004: Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2004 will take place June 28-July 2. The WWDC 2004 will have X tracks, one of which will be the Hardware Technologies track.
Apple leads the way in hardware innovation with built-in mobility technologies like Airport, Airport Extreme and Bluetooth and the best integration of connectivity technologies, FireWire and USB. Apple continues to push the hardware envelope on the Power Mac G5 and Xserve G5 with 64-bit/133MHz PCI-X expansion slots that provide more throughput for high-bandwidth solutions such as HD video editing. Apple is also innovating with multi-processing technologies, including SMP, and distributed processing technologies, featuring the easy-to-use computational clustering solution, Xgrid.
In the Hardware Technologies track, you’ll learn the latest developments in Apple hardware technology and Mac OS X hardware support, including device driver development and optimization for the G5 processor. Register now and save $300.
Hands-On Review--iFlex: We were at last year's Worldwide Developers Conference when Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced the iSight camera and iChat AV software to add video to iChat. The iSight presentation blew everybody away with the iSight's ease of use and clarity in video and audio from the built-in microphone. Every WWDC attendee got one courtesy of Apple and many of us set out right away to use them amongst ourselves in the internet area of the Moscone Center West.
Since then we have bought several iSight's. One of them we sent to a family member out West so that we can see each other every week or whenever the mood strikes. We also use it in business for one-on-one video conferencing and, with the aid of digital projectors attached to PowerBooks, one-on-many and even many-on-many video conferencing--all free thanks to Apple's deal with AOL to use its AIM network.
The iSight is designed for one-on-one video chats. It includes several mounts that center the iSight over the top of a PowerBook, iBook or display. While there is some ability to move the camera around, it's design basically only allows centering a talking head. What if you want to show something that is happening next to the Mac? Or several people sitting at a table across the room? And it has to be highly portable. Well then, it's the iFlex from MacMice to the rescue.
The iFlex is basically an 18" length of flex cable with 6-pin FireWire connectors at each end. One end plugs into the underside of the iSight camera and the other end plugs into a FireWire port on a Mac or a hub, depending on where you want to locate the iSight. MacMice sells the iFlex for $19.99 and we got one for this review and to use.
The iFlex can be twisted into almost any shape and it holds that shape very well in our experience. We can twist it so that the iSight shows the conferencee from any angle or fixes on anything anywhere in the room without having to turn the Mac or display to face it and without shaking. It's light and coils up for easy transportation in our computer bag. We think it is best to form it into the shape one wants, with part of it touching the surface that the Mac sits on, and then plug it into the Mac's FireWire port to minimize any stress on the port.
In summary, we think the iFlex is a handy accessory for the iSight camera. We'll certainly be carrying it everywhere in our PowerBook's bag.
Apple Project Has Training Web Page for Maine Learning Technology Initiative: Also known informally as the Maine iBook program, the MLTI includes special training as well. Here is the web page listing 14 courses over the next 3 months. [Dana Baggett]
Web Piracy Fight May Be Counterproductive according to this New York Times article. Some of the measures championed by the recording and motion picture industries will make it harder to deliver media and to innovate. Apple's iTunes Music Store is held up as a positive way to fight piracy, i.e. offering an alternative that is "cheap and great" versus "free and crummy." [Dana Baggett]
An Apple Handheld Computing Device? One is mentioned in this Times of India article about U.S. firms hiring Indian firms for industrial design and engineering. [Dana Baggett]
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