The Computer Blog

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Rebuilding and New G5's

I’ve spent much of the day fooling around with my computers. It really all started a few weeks ago when I thought I’d replace the XP computer’s 60GB boot drive with the faster 120GB data drive that wasn’t being used. I decided to do that while I had time this weekend. I used a disk utility from Western Digital to copy the boot drive’s contents over (and found a surprise in the box it was in). But, frankly, when I’ve done that in the past, I’ve still had to reinstall hardware or software to get things working again, sometimes even having to completely reinstall most of the system. I decided it just wasn’t worth the risk. After all, I still had about 15-16 GB of space left on each partition. Still, I didn’t like the idea of that 120GB hard drive going largely unused.

I usually know each and every spare piece of hardware and software I have in the house. But I apparently had forgotten that an 80GB Hitachi hard drive that had originally come in my MDD Power Mac was stored in a box, replaced by a faster 120. It happened to be the box that held the WD disk utility I needed to perform the copy operation. I had one more hard drive in the house than I thought. What was I going to do with it? How could I optimize my use of all of them?

I had two hard drives in Firewire cases I used for backup. I knew the one I used for backing up the data on my Power Mac held 80GB, but all I could remember about the one I used to backup my Windows machine was that it held everything with some room to spare. Since I already had two copies of the data (between my Quicksilver Power Mac and its Firewire backup hard disk), I could afford to sacrifice the Firewire hard disk used to backup the Windows machine. I decided that the best use of the 120GB hard drive would be if I put it in my MDD Power Mac to become another scratch and storage disk for use with Final Cut Pro. And since the MDD Power Mac could hold four hard disks but only had two mounted in it, I could also mount the 80GB Hitachi in it. The Firewire hard disk I backed up the Windows machine with (using direct copy techniques) would become the data disk (i.e., the D drive in the machine). I wouldn’t have to do anything but mount it since the data was already there.

To make a long story short, my Windows machine is running a 60GB Maxtor boot drive (FAT32 and NTFS partitions) and an 80GB Seagate data drive using FAT 32 (at least for now---I may divvy it up into a FAT32/NTFS volume later). My MDD Power Mac now has a 160GB Maxtor hard drive (boot volume), 120GB Hard Drive 2, 120GB Hard drive 3, and an 80GB Hard Drive 4. That gives me plenty of space to work with lots of digital video and even some room to archive a few projects I know I’m going to keep.

During all the swapping and checking of jumper settings, I discovered I didn’t have the two disks on the primary IDE cable of my MDD Power Mac set correctly. I had set them up as a Master/Slave pair. While that is correct for my Quicksilver, it is not correct for the MDD Power Macs. The MDD Power Mac needs its hard disks set to Cable Select. I corrected that. I was hoping that mis-setting might explain the kernel panics I had gotten running Norton Speed Disk and Micromat’s Drive 10 Optimizer from their respective CD’s, but it seems to have had little impact. Drive 10 crashed as it always did on that machine just as it was reporting “Finishing”. As I wrote this, Norton Speed Disk was crunching away on the hard disk. I’m waiting to see if it crashes, too, or runs successfully.

NOTE: It crashed, halfway through like it always does. I’m booting off the Software Restore DVD that came with the MDD and using its Disk Utility to check the disk and repair permissions on the boot volume. I’ll see if that helps.

Regardless, tomorrow will be fun. I’m off work tomorrow, so my wife and I are driving up to the Apple store to photograph, video, and play with a couple of G5’s. They say they have both 1.6 and 1.8Ghz machines. I might even try to smuggle in Cinebench and PSBench7 on a CD...!

Friday, August 29, 2003

Going too far…

In an article published on CNN, Findlaw columnist Marci A. Hamilton tells why she believes that RIAA’s lawsuits against students are the right thing to do. Her arguments center around “ the enduring value of copyright” and she argues that all of the commercial art that exists today would vanish if there were not copyrights to protect them. As a writer, a web publisher, and videographer, I am sensitive to copyright issues and protecting the rights of individual artists. Still, I believe her argument that commercial art would not exist without copyright is simplistic and overstated, the kind of argument to be expected from anyone associated with our legal system. What she is not addressing is this question: Is RIAA going too far?

Indeed, CNN reported that in one case RIAA stated that they had examined the files on a young woman’s computer but did not explicitly state how and when. If they did it online before they had obtained a subpoena, then RIAA has broken into the woman’s machine and invaded her privacy. In respect for private rights under our Constitution, we do not even allow our police to take such action without obtaining a search warrant. At least from what’s being reported in the news, it appears that this situation is out of control. What’s worse is we’re allowing it to happen.

RIAA is acting boldly because dollars are at stake, or so they claim, and because they have powerful allies in Congress and in the legal establishment, all of whom tend to line their pockets by looking the other way. Can someone explain to me how Senator Orin Hatch can chair the Senate committee that oversees this matter when he is earning money as a songwriter? That’s in clear violation of Senate ethics rules, yet no Senator I’ve contacted via e-mail has responded to me about the matter. In any case, it is clear that the people involved in this will do almost anything to secure what they see as their rights, Constitution be damned.

When it became apparent that RIAA would begin taking these kind of actions, some analysts stated that this could backfire and that RIAA was placing the blame for declining sales where they didn’t belong. Indeed, since RIAA began these actions, the sales decline of CD’s has accelerated.

On the other side of the coin, the unauthorized copying is happening because new digital technologies, and I include the Internet in those, have made copying data in electronic form easy and convenient. For example, anything posted on this site is copyrighted by law. Yet, I found one of the “G4, G5, and AMD Shoot-out” charts posted on a forum by someone who did not give me any credit for the chart at all. Technically, that was a copyright violation, not to mention just flat out rude. However, I feel that legally it falls under “fair use” copyright provisions. The person’s use of the chart fell within the use it was posted on the Net for and, more importantly, they were not making any profit off of it. Would I go after someone who was making money off of material posted on this site? It would all depend. But, for the most part, I’m smart enough not to post material here that, if stolen, would cause me large financial harm.

Of course, we’re talking about this situation because what it has illustrated, most of all, is the real problem. Too many people don’t have a good set of boundaries and feel like anything posted out in the Internet wilds belongs to them. They don’t recognize dishonesty when they see it, especially when they are practicing it. That’s where the real problem lies, and that’s also why legal means of approaching it is only a temporary solution and why technological barriers ultimately will be defeated.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

On Computer Security…

MacWorld’s news service MacCentral had a couple of stories on it about Mac OS X security. One op-ed piece was by Charles Haddad in Business World Online who claimed that the reason there are few viruses for the Mac is because the Mac market is small and the Windows market so big. Another piece by David Zeiler (“The Mac Experience,” Baltimore Sun) contained reader responses to a previous article quoting a spokesman for an anti-virus software company named Sophos. The Sophos spokesman claimed that the Mac was not inherently any safer than the PC. Readers who are a lot more familiar with OS X code than I am (and really that includes almost everyone) stated it simply was not true and gave specifics why. That included a discussion about how insecure Outlook and Outlook Express are by design, which has me wondering about Entourage.

No matter whether the Mac’s inherent security is because the Mac’s market segment is so small or whether it’s because it is simply harder to code worms and viruses for OS X, I have to say it’s nice not to have to worry about it. Even when I used to retrieve my e-mail on my Windows’ machine, once I had the Macs on my network, I purposely downloaded my e-mail first to one of my Macs so I could examine their payloads. Once I found something suspicious, I simply deleted the suspect note from my mail server (using a webmail interface).

Most users whose machines get infected by a virus get there because they don’t take even the most basic steps to secure their machines. If you’re on a Windows PC and you either don’t have any anti-virus software or don’t have your anti-virus software scan your incoming e-mail, you’re a prime target. For Windows 98 and XP users, routinely using Windows Update is another way to keep your machine’s operating system up to date and free of security holes. Us Mac users also need to routinely use Software Update for the same reason. Even with all this, it is never a good idea to open attachments from folks you don’t know or open files ending with .bat, .pif, .exe, or .scr even if you do. Windows Outlook or Outlook Express users can make themselves even safer by turning off Preview and by applying the e-mail security patches for those applications. File swapping is another way to make yourself a prime target, as well using any kind of warez. And everybody needs some kind of firewall, even if you’re on dial-up using dynamic IP. Don’t believe me? Download one, install it on your machine, tell it to alert you when someone tries to intrude, and then log onto the Net during the wee hours of the morning and surf for an hour or two. You’ll be surprised at what happens.

If you’re on high-speed broadband and especially if you’re on a Mac, buying a router is one of the best investments you can make. Not only will the router handle all your sign-on duties, but most have pretty good hardware firewalls that will hide your computer from those baddies on the Net who are trying to find you. Some of them support Apple Talk, too. If you’ve been thinking about setting up a home network, consider the security improvement you will also get once you turn its firewall on and enable encryption, especially if you’re on wireless.

About being a little slow…

As I mentioned the other day, I got a copy of Drive 10 and have been using it to check and defragment the disks on most of my Macs. Well, I let my iMac run off and do the optimization by itself and noticed when I came back the next morning that the iMac appeared to have gone to sleep. I wasn’t sure how the defragging had gone. That afternoon when I tried to use Toast 5, it would load up a CD but acted like the CD had already been burned, i.e., I could not add any files to the CD, even if it was new. Additionally, when I tried to boot a Classic application, I got an error message even as Classic finished loading. The message indicated that “Classic Clipboard Services” had been terminated. I did some searching looking for a fix but found nothing and decided to reload Jaguar and all my applications. That worked. Everything is honkey dory. But it did take me an evening of work and slowed down my updates to this site.

This weekend I’ll post some Xbench 1.1 numbers comparing a 1.6 Ghz G5, a dual 1.25 Ghz G4 Power Mac, and a dual 1 Ghz G4 Power Mac.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

What Norton doth crash under, Drive 10 fixeth…

After a few days delay ostensibly caused by bad weather (though I’m unaware of any hurricanes or snowstorms in Texas at the time), UPS finally delivered my copy of Micromat’s Drive 10. For the first time since I’ve owned it, I now have the 160 GB Maxtor hard disk in my MDD G4 Power Mac fully optimized. (Norton Utilities 8.0, which I paid almost a hundred bucks for a month or so ago at Fry’s Electronics, would hang about half-way through the optimization and then crash the Mac with a kernel panic.) Drive 10 worked like a champ until the very, very end of the process (I saw the word “Finishing” displayed on the status window) when, like Norton, it crashed with a kernel panic. I immediately re-ran both the disk diagnostics and optimization. The disk diagnostics found no problems, and the optimization routine reported that it was “done” a soon as I ran it.

I’m not sure what’s causing the kernel panics when I run a disk utility. They haven’t occurred when I use the machine normally, and Apple’s hardware tests show no problems. (I’ve tried removing various memory modules and re-run Norton and it still crashed. Makes me suspect the hard disk.) We’ll see if the utility crashes the next time I run it on my Mirror Door Drive Power Mac. It’s done fine everywhere else (one Quicksilver Power Mac and one G4 iMac).

I love Drive 10’s interface. Look for a review of the product here within the next week.

Once more into the breach (or, where I’m headed with the speed tests)...

I’ve had some interesting conversations with folks about the benchmarks over the last couple of days. Several have made suggestions and, even better, sent me some data. I’m looking forward to updating the Cinebench benchmarks with AMD 2400+ data and G5 1.8 data once I get a complete set of each. I may even wander down to the local Apple store soon to see if they’ve got a G5 I can use for a few moments.

One reader who claimed to be discussing the subject with Maxon employees claimed that I had “used Cinebench incorrectly” because I used the time values instead of the raw CPU scores in the testing. Frankly, while some people may prefer the CPU benchmarks, I find the time and frames per second more meaningful. I can understand them right away. The argument that they’re not meaningful leads to the question: “If they’re not meaningful and don’t mean anything, why did the testers choose to display them?” I feel I must also point out that Rob-ART over at Barefeats.com uses the time values as well, and he has a lot more experience than I do. Frankly, I’m on the same page he is about why using the time values is a valid tactic. I believe folks are fussing at me about what they’re seeing because they don’t like the result. It appears to be a “shoot the messenger” approach.

Another reader suggested I run benchmarks against AMD’s Opetron. That’s a fair suggestion but not something I’m going to pursue right now. I’m a home and small business user and want to confine myself to the market I know. For the moment, the Opteron is really a server CPU, just like the Xeon. Secondly, there are other folks out there already gathering that kind of data (Barefeats.com is one), and I don’t have access to the assets I’d need to do that. So, for now, I’m going to constrain myself to running G5’s and some G4’s against Athlons and Pentium 4’s, cpu’s I would be more likely to buy.

Several readers made me aware of what I believe to be a pretty big trend. Many folks are treating the website like it’s a Playboy magazine: they claim to be reading the articles, but they’re really only looking at the pictures. Please read what I have to say and then if you have a comment or suggestion, send me an e-mail. It’ll save us both time and worry.

I’m going to generate some Photoshop files in the next week or so and run some informal tests to at get some G4 and AMD performance data using Photoshop 7 filters and tasks. If anyone in the Houston area would be interested in working with me on testing their G5, send me an e-mail and we’ll discuss what we can do.

Monday, August 25, 2003

More on the speed tests and Computer Dogma…

I was looking around for some 1.8 GHz G5 benchmarks and stumbled on an AMD-related website that took some of my comments about the relative strength of the AMD 2000+ and the G5 out of context to make a case for putting down the Mac. I didn’t see one bit of objectivity in those remarks or any real data put forward, only the author’s opinion that his product is better. The author also showed he had not read any of the commentary at my site. I got what I was looking for out those tests. Other people are seeing what they want in them.

This particular website stated that the comparison of an AMD 2000+ to Apple’s “latest and greatest” was not reason enough to say Apple had caught up. Obviously, I don’t agree. As an everyday user, I’m looking at relative performance from a big picture standpoint. Frankly, having built PC’s for two decades and performed scores of upgrades, I’m a lot more thoughtful when comparing how much pain and cost an upgrade is going to put me through versus how much gain I’m going to get out of it. I haven’t seen enough of a gain to upgrade the PC from an AMD 2000+ to a 2400+ even though I could do that with just a CPU swap. The same holds true for a system purchase. I’ve already stated on this site why I switched to Macs this year. Speed just wasn’t enough to keep me on an Intel or AMD platform.

The speed tests are interesting from a technical standpoint and from a marketing standpoint. Apple put itself on the hook with the claim that they had made the world’s fastest personal computer. Now, they have to prove it. But in the end, no matter which platform one uses or what operating system one runs, there will always be one faster. That is the nature of competition and technological advance.

Frankly, we all have things in computing that we like and we don’t. I consider the kind of computer dogma I often see on the Net immature, especially when it turns into personal attacks, direct or disguised. I learned a long time ago that if I wanted people to listen to me I needed to approach them with as much openness and honesty as possible. There are things a lot more important in life than how fast a CPU is or what software someone is running. We’re fortunate to have stable and materially plentiful lives that we can discuss those issues. Turning it into a fistfight just means we’ve got some growing up to do and have lost perspective on how important the real things in life are.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

About the “G4, G5, and AMD Shootout and Speed Testing in General…

I want to thank the folks who have dropped by the site to take a gander at the “G4, G5, and AMD Shootout” in The ComputerZone. And a special thanks to Mike at the “Accelerate your Mac” website. Mike really has a hell of a good website and does us Mac owners a huge public service by running it. My G4 iMac and my MDD Power Mac today are upgraded because of the material at Mike’s site. It’s really nice to have the option to upgrade these machines; without Mike and people like him, that option might not exist.

Sometimes, you just get lucky. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to perform a performance comparison between two older but recent generation Power Macs, a relatively current AMD powered XP machine, and one of the new G5 computers from Apple. (This type of thing is something I’ve always wanted to do.) The comparison was especially germane because the G5 and the AMD chip ran at roughly the same clock speed and video cards were matched up at all the machines at my end. True, it would have been a little better test of relative CPU strength had the G5 had a Radeon 9000 video card; but there was nothing I could do to change that since I didn’t have a G5 in the house. The G5 benchmarks came from chaosmint.com. Thanks to everyone involved in that site for posting them.

I’d like to say a few words here about the tests. Hopefully, you’ve seen some of the comments at xlr8yourmac.com about running Cinebench on the G5. Obviously, the code is not optimized for the machine. Folks involved with different aspects of the benchmark believe that once they optimize it for the G5, the numbers will go much higher. That’s good and great for bragging rights. But what does it mean to me today if I buy the G5? That’s the question I was after. Since my primary use for these machines is video and graphics, I felt that a rendering test like Cinebench was especially applicable. I’ve been hearing that Cinebench runs better on PC’s. Is that because the code is optimized better for PC’s or are they inherently faster at rendering than Mac’s are? Certainly, you would think that the Cinebench code would be optimized for the G4 by now; and as I sat and watched the test run on both sets of machines, it’s hard to argue that for the most part the AMD is not significantly faster. Does that mean I’m going to go back to AMD/Intel/Windows for my basic computer needs? Hell NO! Decades of running computers, working graphics and video on them, putting them together, and troubleshooting myself every single problem that occurred with them all convinced me that while speed was desirable, productivity is not so narrowly defined. Macs create a more desirable, integrated working environment than anything on the PC side, and that’s why I’ve spent huge amounts of money over the last couple of years converting over to them. I knew Macs were slower on some counts. But a slower machine that works—that you even have fun at—is worth more in my book than a faster machine I’m cussing at because I’ve got to troubleshoot it once more.

As I said in the test article, while there are some places where the AMD chip outperformed the 1.6 Ghz G5, they appear to be fairly evenly matched. (This would put the 1.6 Ghz G5 even today on par and perhaps slightly ahead of a 2Ghz P4.) Optimized Cinebench code will probably close the gap up a bit further and perhaps push the G5 ahead. But the real story won’t be told until applications like Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Photoshop, In Design, Quark, and perhaps Mac games become truly optimized for the G5 running on a 64 bit operating system. That’s some years down the pike. This story is just beginning.

As for the story on this website, I’ll add dual 1.42 Ghz G4, 1.8 Ghz G5, and dual 2 Ghz G5 data to the plots as soon as I can find them or sweet-talk someone into letting me run Cinebench on their machine. Check back every now and then to see what I’ve found and feel free to send me any references.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Apple’s DVD Studio Pro 2.0

Last night, I ordered Apple’s DVD Studio Pro 2.0 from PC Connection (http://wwww.pcconnection.com, also known as Mac Connection) and it arrived today. Wow! What a cool piece of software! True, I only had few minutes to play with it during my lunch break; but even that short foray into it impressed me. For one thing, there were four settings you could configure it to boot up in, ranging from a very basic interface similar to (Apple’s) iDVD 3’s or an “advanced” configuration that displays just about all functions the software offers.

You’ll hear more about this software as I begin to use it to actually turn out DVD’s.

On the PowerMac G5…

If you’re into computers at all, you probably know that Apple’s PowerMac G5 has begun shipping. I haven’t seen one, yet. I’ll get around to that next time I have some reason to wander across town to the Galleria, which probably won’t be anytime soon. Most pundits say that some stores around the country will have the machines by mid-week. You might want to look for them. You can tell them apart by the big Apple with a bite out of it on their side and a case that looks like aluminum swiss-cheese!

Last week, I found an article at SoundTrack Lounge that compared Photshop performance between a single-processor 933 Mhz G4 PowerMac and one of the pre-production dual-processor G5’s (2 Ghz). (You can see the article at: http://www.soundtracklounge.com/article.php?story=20030812073633362). Frankly, I didn’t feel the numbers were all that impressive. Admittedly, the operating system may not have been as tuned to the G5 as the OS shipping with them is; and Adobe released Photoshop optimizations for the G5 yesterday, so the full story does remain to be seen. But Apple has raised everyone’s expectations awfully high with marketing hype that the G5 is the world’s fastest personal computer. If the machine can’t produce to the point of making believers out of the folks, then the G5 will be a big bust, one that Apple will find hard to recover from.

As for me, I can’t see a G5 in my future anytime, soon. If I do decide to go there, it will be because I have all my current machines paid off, can trade in one of my PowerMacs on the G5, and can get a decent price on it all.

Frankly, I’m happy not to be a first adopter of the G5 or the upcoming release of Apple’s new version of OS X, Panther, OS 10.3.

More “non-problems” with Windows XP…

In the “Bugs and Fixes” section September issue of PC World, Microsoft once again claims that another XP problem is not a problem. This one has to do with trying to print from a parallel port using XP or 2000. When you do, applications other than the one you’re trying to print from may hang. MS has no plans to fix this, just like it has no plans to fix the speed hits many people were (and are) getting from XP’s Service Pack 1.

Once again, I am SO happy I only use Windows for gaming and watching TV!

By the way, the new Office (for Windows) is out…

Years ago, I bought Office 2000 Professional. Office 2003 is coming out, excuse me, Office 2003 System is coming out at its usual inflated prices. (If I truly wanted to upgrade, it would cost me $329 for the Professional version.) Not sure about you, but as a home and small business user, I didn’t see any good reason to upgrade to Office XP (I do have some copies of Word XP but only one of them is used) and surely don’t see any reason to upgrade to Office 2003. MS’s pricing is squeezing out the little guy, anyway. There won’t be a “standard” version of this office you can get without buying a PC…

Saturday, August 16, 2003

About Cyber-Acoustic CA-3080 Speakers…

My wife really loves JBL’s Creature speakers and has wanted a set for her iMac. Since she’s really into making music with her machine, she really needs some nice speakers. The Creature speakers sound pretty nice and look cool. My only gripe about them is they perform best at moderate volumes and can’t really crank up very much. I had a set I bought for my own iMac, but I had moved them to the Windows machine once we decided to move it into the guest room. Since the Windows machine had become primarily a gaming and entertainment station, I was content to give her the Creature speakers and see what I could find to replace the ones on the Windows machine without spending too much. Ideally, if I had to spend more than what I paid for the JBL’s, it made more sense to buy her a new pair of Creatures.

I took her across town to do some shopping at Coldwater Creek and then stopped by Microcenter after she was done. We wandered through and looked at their Macs and then stopped to listen to various speakers sets wired together in a bank. As we listened, I was particularly struck by speaker sets from Cyber-Acoustic. The company had flat panel speaker sets available at both the $19.95 and $29.95 price points, and they sounded as good as systems costing four times as much! After listening to a bunch of them, I decided to buy the $29.95 Cyber-Acoustic CA-3080.

I brought it home and set it up on my Windows machine. Near their highest volume setting, the speakers exhibit a hissing as the computer is booting. Turning the volume down a little mostly gets rid of the problem and doesn’t seem to affect the overall volume much. General sound and tone is as good as the JBL’s, though the bass is not quite as deep, and there is no way to adjust the amount of bass or treble as there is on the JBL’s. The on/off switch is on the front of the right speaker, very convenient compared to the on/off button in the rear of the Creature’s dome shaped subwoofer. The little subwoofer that comes with these speakers is not magnetically shielded so it must be located away from your monitor, but it’s small enough so that locating it on the floor is not a problem. The label ensuring you know this is a very nice touch. It’s apparent that even though I only spent $30 with them, Cyber-Acoustics wants me to come back.

Overall, the CA-3080 seems to be quite a bargain.

On IT departments, and Mac’s ease of use and maintenance…

From The Pulpit, Robert Cringely’s column for PBS (which can be seen on his website), he writes that the reason macs have not and are not being readily accepted into corporate IT departments has more to do with keeping IT departments staffed than whether the machines and software could meet their users’ needs. He believes that the move toward Linux could be more easily be met by moves to Macs, but that doing so would eventually mean that IT departments could and would downsize since the Macs would require less maintenance. Frankly, I think he has hit the nail on the head. Or someone did. Cringely credits the insight to a reader.

Certainly, my own experience with Macs since I began switching to them a year or so ago has been that they cost me less time...a lot less time...to maintain than any Windows system I own or have ever. I wrestle with my Windows machine almost every time I boot it to get it to log onto my wireless network even though it is using a Belkin wireless card hooking to a Belkin wireless router. My Macs, both our iMacs and iBooks, boot into the wireless network using Airport cards and log on automatically without nary a care. I don’t even think about them but I HATE sitting down at the Windows machine. I KNOW I’m going to have to reconfigure something on it…

I was shocked a while back to discover that configuring my OS X Macs to hook into the Windows NT network at my workplace was easier and faster than configuring my Windows machine to do the same thing, no matter whether I used Windows 98 or XP. It’s true that I haven’t figured out how to get the Macs to my personal folders but getting to them even using XP hasn’t been a cake walk, either. In fact, I often can’t. And you can bet at that moment I want to be on a Mac. Outlook 2001 is a lot more colorful…

Bet me that a switch to Macs would cause corporate IT departments to shrink or destroy that lucrative outsourcing contract. Actually, that's a bet I won't take, because you'd be betting on a sure thing.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

I don’t think so…

Writing in Business Week, technology writer Charles Haddad in his “Byte of the Apple” column states that Apple has already lost the battle for the educational market. He makes a valid argument that they have lost because IT managers like to hang with what they know and that is, of course, Windows.

I’ve seen this phenomena in action myself when I worked as a technical writer for a manufacturing company here in Houston. The IT department manager wanted to cling to Windows 3.1 and Netware long after it had become either efficient or economical to do so. We took our part of the company over to Windows 95 and Ethernet practivally on our own.

I agree that Haddad’s premise is accurate and that Apple is fighting an uphill battle. I don’t agree with his conclusion, however. From my perspective, I believe that Apple has begun what will prove to be a magnificent, long, uphill climb. As more and more people in all markets see the beauty and ease of use of OS X and Apple’s machines, they will choose Macs more and more. I’m certainly talking to more and more people at all levels who are open to looking at a Mac. I talked to one such person today, and he was en engineer who had not been considering it. And that’s forgetting that I was talking to a woman I work with who told me a relative of hers was making DVD slide shows from pictures they’d taken during a vacation to Italy. He was using a Mac and Final Cut pro to do his editing.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Norton SpeedDisk Crashes…

I recently upgraded my copy of Norton Utilities for the Mac to version 8.0, the latest. My previous version was the one included in Norton Systemworks 1.0 for the Mac; and it required booting into OS 9, something that won’t work with my new Mirrored Door PowerMac. However, I’m finding that Norton Speed Disk continuously crashes with a kernel panic anytime I try to defragment the MDD’s primary hard disk, a 160GB Maxtor. It’s not clear to me whether the crashes are due to a bug in Speed Disk or some incompatibility with the 160GB hard disk. Speed Disk seems to run fine on all my other Mac’s, and the new MDD PowerMac is the only one with a hard disk bigger than 120GB.

Of course, as usual, I can find nothing on the Symantec website about this problem. I’ve run Apple Hardware Tests on the computer, and they are not finding anything unusual. Since I have not seen the machine crash with any other application I’ve been using on it, I must conclude that the problem is specific to Norton.

So, where do I go from here? Frankly, I’m going to try another disk management product. I’m leaning toward ordering MicroMat’s Drive 10 disk utility. If I do and it defragments my new Mac without a problem, more than likely I will have bought my last version of Norton Utilities for the Mac.

Apple Cinema Heaven…almost…

Part of my move to the Mac has been to set up a couple of PowerMacs to ue for desktop publishing and video editing. I had been sharing a 17” Samsung 760V LCD between my Quicksilver PowerMac and my AMD powered Windows computer; but I wanted to move the Windows machine to the guest room (for reasons discussed in the Aug.10 blog). That would require some kind of new monitor for one of my PowerMacs. I spent several weeks looking at monitors; though the 17 inch Apple Studio LCD would suffice and was more affordable, I opted for the 20 inch Apple Cinema Display (LCD).

If you look at how Apple prices their LCD monitors, after you hit the 17 inchers $699 price tag, the first three inches of space costs $600 and the second $700. Quite the opposite of how scaling usually works. So, what sold me on the 20 incher obviously wasn’t its cost but its clarity. Compared to the 17 inch screen, the 20 is both clearer and brighter. It was hard for me to justify to myself spending the initial $700 for a poorer screen. (This is a relative comparison. The 17 inch Apple Studio LCD is still brighter and clearer than my Samsung 760V, though not by a lot.)

What also weighed into my decision was that I’m expecting a little windfall of money soon that would just about cover its cost.

The monitor is absolutely huge. I have only one complaint about it, i.e., one red pixel is stuck on just below and to the left of center. I’ve tried some gentle massaging to see if that might cure it without result. It’s barely noticeable. Still, there’s something about spending $1300 for something that is flawed, no matter how innocuous, that rankles me. I doubt seriously if I’d get any empathy from Apple about a replacement.