Thursday, November 28, 2002

I think Quark has got their spin up to about 7400 RPM right now. I'm still not convinced.

(OK, OK, so I said I wouldn't post again until Monday. But a bunch of you were reading today, and I wanted to keep your attention.)

Quark has quickly (and over a holiday, even) sent out a spin-control public announcement regarding their support of QuarkXPress on Mac OS X.

It makes sense--that is, all except the "fewer publishers are purchasing Macs" thing. Of course publishers aren't buying new Macs. Their industry is in the toilet. But, like the highly misinterpreted concept of "market share" in computers, just because Apple isn't selling many new computers (which is market share) doesn't mean that the base, installed market of Macintosh systems is shrinking. Publishers are just milking a few more months from what they computers and work that they have, and for good reason.

Publishers have really been hit--hard--in the past two years. In particular, computer book publishers have been dropping like flies. Visit a bookstore and think back to where you'd find two back-to-back aisles of computer books of all kinds. Today, you might--might find a half-aisle with a few programming and certification books, with a handful of self-help books.

If these companies haven't been sold, they've died. Coriolis Press is a recent victim. I was 4 chapters into a very large book I had signed with the company before it canceled my book and, a few weeks later, canceled itself. I've worked for four computer book publishers in some capacity in the past 8 years and have been saddened to see many of them deteriorate into a shadow of their former greatness.

Companies love to condense the number of resources they have for cost savings, especially in lean times. Computers and their users are a natural target since you can coax a little more work out of the remaining few. Personnel cuts are usually indiscriminate, but the prepress departments are not usually extremely big. Desperate companies may eliminate their prepress departments altogether, deciding instead to outsource their prepress to another company.

The Macintosh is the de facto computer for prepress and graphic design. Windows, despite its advances, still lacks a certain finnesse and accuracy in its color management, font rendering, performance, and interface consistancy compared to an identical experience on a Macintosh. That doesn't mean you can't use Windows, however, getting someone to print your book will be a challenge since many of these companies expect your work not only in QuarkXPress format but on a Macintosh disk. They can accept your Windows disk, but likely charge you extra for the trouble.

Another serious matter that Quark should consider when analyzing their drops in sales on QuarkXPress involves how users perceive Quark. First, why was it necessary for publishers to upgrade from QuarkXPress 5 from version 4? Most users weren't going to try that trick again. They were burned by their last move from the usable and stable version 3.32 to version 4.0, which was so ridden with bugs that users demanded a way to revert their 4.0 jobs back to 3.32. There really wasn't a lot of technical benefits or new features that motivated users to make a switch. The second matter: Quark's customer service is reknowned for their scary service. Why move to a new product when you can't guarantee that Quark's own Customer Service will help you with a problem?

For some users who have been bitten by computer software companies that are here-today-gone-tomorrow, another worry may be why Quark has been so slow in getting a Mac OS X version of QuarkXPress out the door. Are they "struggling?" Could they even be "beleaguered?" Quark is a private company, so there aren't any shareholders to push the management to get their act together.

So, while Quark has, in all likelihood, truly detected a decrease in Macintosh orders for QuarkXPress, there are too many factors for them to make very radical moves that could leave the DTP ball in Adobe's hands.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

It's an American holiday here, but I have one news tidbit that floored me about an Xserve user.

The original article on Insanely Great Mac discussed some recent significant Xserve users, including Clear Channel, the mega-comglomerate that owns WFBQ-FM 94.7 here, the home of The Bob and Tom radio show.

But it was the first post that really a clincher. I'm going to copy the post here just in case--it was that impressive:

"I work for an educational support facility. We provide a media library (10000 videotapes, audiotapes, CDs, DVDs, anatomical models, etc), available to teachers in a 4 county area in SouthWest Florida. We also provide electronics and computer repair services.

Before we installed our Xserve, we utilized several machines. An HP front end server for taking orders, a Dell server for database/scheduling, a WorkGroup Server 8500 (AppleShare IP) for our internal needs, a Power Computing PowerBase 240 as a Filemaker server, and another PowerBase running as a router/firewall between all this and our Lan.

The number of workstations on our LAN fluctuates wildly because we also host training sessions and teleconferences. The base number of users is 8, with our visitors often bringing it up to 30. We serve 28 schools ranging in size from 500 to 3000 students each, roughly 3000 teachers, around 10000 workstations.

On the repair end, we kept yet another Mac as a Filemaker server, keeping track of pickups, deliveries, and work order status and history. Additionally we had a couple of machines setup as diagnostic stations (transfer the hard drive from an ailing machine, drop it into the diagnostic workstation, run Norton, defrag, etc).

We got our Xserve in July, with the idea of consolidation. Using a conservative estimate, I reasoned we could replace the HP, the 8500, and one of the PowerBases. I had planned to do this in stages over a time span of about a month.

However, fate intervened. A storm knocked out the Filemaker machine and router machine. Having had the good sense to make regular backups (school of hard knocks), I decided to just install Filemaker on the Xserve, and to turn on routing... it would do in a pinch, until we got our regular machines replaced. We might run slow (filemaker is a bandwidth/CPU hog!), but we would run.

To my amazement, the Xserve just took it in stride. As an experiment, I copied EVERYTHING to the Xserve and exercised it over one weekend, carefully testing response time, watching for dropped packets, CPU usage, memory usage, etc. With joy I noted that not only did our LAN load go down (due to the apps no longer needing to talk over the wire), with everything going all at once, the Xserves CPU load was insignificant.

Over the next month I moved EVERYTHING over to the Xserve, for real. I kept the WS8500 as a backup machine, but the other machines have all been recycled into workstations or cannabalized for parts.

The Xserve handled this all so well, that in September I added additional responsibilities. I broadcast a Quicktime video stream from a camera in our repair shop, and I setup an MP3 broadcast of music I find enjoyable so that whenever I am 'on the road' I can at least have some decent music (sorry, private broadcast!).

I setup Netboot, allowing us to boot Imacs from the server, with a complete set of diagnostic tools available, the sick machines own hard drive sitting idle and helpless, ready for any and all repair procedures.

Since the middle of September our Xserve has been performing remarkably well. Consider everything it is doing. It serves our Web site, it is our file server (Apple AND Windows), print server, mail server, Directory server, FTP server, Filemaker server, DHCP, TFTP and Netboot, DNS. On top of that, it is streaming a 24 hour Quicktime video, as well as a 24 hour MP3 radio playlist. To boot, it is our firewall AND our router. And yet, with all that, the average CPU usage is less than 4 percent. That's right! FOUR percent!

Last week, I happened to have 5 iMacs in at once, so I decided to put Netboot to the test. I set each machine to boot OS9.22 from the Xserve (using the Startup Disk control panel), then shut them down. As fast as I could move my fingers from one machines power button to the next, I powered them all up simultaneously. The last one, I timed how long from the startup bell to the appearance of the desktop.

The result? The iMacs actually booted faster from the Xserve than from their own hard drives! But only by a few seconds (3 to be exact). The Xserve CPU load? Whilst still tending to everything I have already described, and acting as a surrogate hard drive for 5 iMacs (and routing all that data to them, by the way), it rose to a whopping 41 percent.

I would be very interested in hearing from anybody who has put Xserve, NetBoot, and Macintosh manager to real use in a classroom. I think (based on napkin calculations) that an Xserve could handle a couple hundred NetBooted and managed workstations easily under certain circumstances. The little darlin's (those snot nosed kids who make Dennis the Menace look like an angel) could do anything they want with the machine. When it gets so fouled up that you can't work with it, you don't have to re-install, re-configure, re-store, or re-ad.

Just re-boot, and it has a clean, fresh OS9 with everything a student workstation should have. It's as if the Supreme Being granted forgiveness and wiped away all the childs sins.

And it doesn't take any longer than, well, just booting!

Xserve switch? If you are Unix/Linux experienced, it's a no-brainer. Simple as 3.1415926... If you are a Mac lab admin, you'll be up and running real soon, with just a few new things to learn. If you're a MSCE or such, well, you'll have to unlearn some things, and learn some new things, but if you're able to figure out how to do anything remotely useful with Windows, you'll be a hero with an Xserve and OSX Server 10.2 !

Michael Duane Rice
Computer / Electronics Analyst
Special Projects Center
[e-mail address removed for anti-spam measure]"

'Nuff said.

Regular posts (for what some might call "regular") will resume on Monday, December 2.

Perhaps this article was written before Quark's recent conference. That news should be the really scary part of any Mac OS X transition.

This article talks about a company's reticience to move to Mac OS X because of their dependence on QuarkXPress.

News flash to this company: Apple's not calling the shots here. Quark may never release its Mac OS X version of QuarkXPress. Don't make a bad business decision by being wholly dependent on one technology or application. InDesign is a viable option to review. It may be cheaper and more efficient to make that transition than to wait with your Mac OS 9 applications and find that, as you buy systems later next year that are incapable of booting Mac OS 9 from the hard drive, that your business has really fallen behind.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

QuarkXPress in jeapardy?

That's the buzz, although some people in a few circles are probably not surprised.

QuarkXPress is the de facto desktop publishing application for Macintosh, arriving in the early 1990s to compete with, and eventually overtake, Aldus (now Adobe) PageMaker, the original DTP application. Quark (which many people call the app for short, although "XPress" is really the product and Quark the company name) is widely used for power DTP creations, particularly in the book and magazing publishing world.

A few years ago, Adobe realized that PageMaker was running out of steam and features to compete. So, in came InDesign, a totally new application in 1999 that used many of the same tools and palettes from Photoshop 5 and Illustrator for easy use. It wasn't the "Quark Killer" that Adobe promised, but it did show a few signficant kinks in Quark's armor.

The first armor kink was Quark's shoddy performance and bug problems that made versions 4.0 through 4.0.3 of QuarkXPress almost unusable. It also lacked proper reverse compatibility to early versions of QXP when version 4 was deemed too unstable by many users.

At present, QuarkXPress is the only major prepress application that has not arrived in a Mac OS X version, and it is easily a year overdue.

The second kink appears to be from within Quark itself. Forgive me, Jack, for portraying you as a news site, but As the Apple Turns had a very humorous take on comments from the Quark CEO that seems to indicate his distaste with the Macintosh population that uses Quark. The venerable news and rumor site The Naked Mole Rat spoke of Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi's comments that lead many to feel that Quark is not trying hard enough to get an OS X version because they want to move to a Windows base only. Quote the Rat:

"Publishing professionals who attended a Quark-convened “executive summary” in New York last week are still abuzz over the performance of Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi, a gentleman whose outbursts make Steve Jobs seem like Captain Kangaroo.

The ostensible topic du jour: the pending integration of Quark Publishing System and Digital Media System within a framework of Microsoft’s .Net and SQL Server technologies. Notably absent from the roadmap: any support for Mac OS X Server.

Indeed, these witnesses attest, audience questions about Mac OS X provoked an Ebrahimi tirade of Old Testament proportions: Quark’s Dear Leader told his squirming guests that “the Macintosh platform is shrinking,” and that “publishing is dying.” He suggested that anyone dissatisfied with Quark’s Mac commitment should “switch to something else,” although he insisted that making the move to Adobe’s long-Carbonized InDesign package is “committing suicide.”

Kiss of death for Quark? Maybe, maybe not. Quark is obviously trying to move users to the larger Windows base, and even if they score only a fraction of these users, I feel it would have a somewhat larger user base than with Mac users. However, Mac OS X is an attraction, not distraction as it has been for Apple in the late 1990s, and its user base is growing. Maybe not in the circles that Quark desires, but growing, nonetheless.

This is Adobe's chance to grab the brass ring and slap Quark around with it, in my opinion. As a rule of thumb, Adobe's first versions of their apps are pretty awful, but by version 2 or 3, the quality of the application tends to hit its stride and become production-ready. InDesign 2 has improved on many of its 1.0 sins and has made many users make a switch from QuarkXPress.

Personally I've never figured Quark to have a lot of management brains to stick with their strengths. Growth is a natural objective for any business, but this company has had the DTP side of things wrapped up. If they wanted to move into Microsoft technology integrations, that's great--but doing it by sacrificing their bread-and-butter application? Not good. Not good at all. It really sounds like Quark is envious of other technologies that intergrate more with the computer, such as MP3 players and applications. They want to become part of the "digital hub" too. Rrrriiiiiight.

Watch this sequence of events for Quark become hyperbole, and listen to the sounds of cash registers and invoices printed for copies of InDesign destined for people who have waited enough.

Monday, November 25, 2002

I'm just filled with news, so here goes the volcano.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago of something big that was to happen professionally. Well, it did and it didn't happen. As I might have mentioned in summer posts, I applied for the Mac Genius position at the soon-to-be-opened Apple retail store in Indianapolis. Things looked good for my qualifications, but I knew that my benefits and compensation would be a problem. So, things came and went, and I was dinged for the position. The store opened on November 2 to a very happy city reception.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. Apple calls me, asking if I were still interested in the position. Turned out that one of their three Geniuses had found a better offer. I had a pleasant interview with the store's manager, who was enthusiastic about my skills and experience. I was still skeptical that Apple would be able to meet my salary since I'm paid nowadays with a pretty professional rate. Unfortunately my skepticism did prove true, although Apple made a good attempt to get close to what I made. Sadly, the benefits didn't fit. After receiving an offer for the job, I declined.

Well, at least I can say I was offered the job. Not many could say that. If you've visited an Apple store and spoke with a Genius, you might get an idea now of how much Mac stuff I have crammed in my brain.

So, enough with the meeting of my "Admiration Society." Let's dig into some news, with more to follow tomorrow.

His journey towards the Dark Side is now complete: Writer David Coursey how Mac systems make a great Christmas gift. He practically gushes, but not with zealotry, and has a few positive words on Windows XP as well.

The last major application from Macromedia is announced: Macromedia Director MX has been announced for a December release. It appears that Macromedia has beaten Adobe in carbonizing their primary applications for use in Mac OS X. Here's hoping for decent functionality.

Yes, you CAN open up a Macintosh: Apple has wisely posted a guide for those of you who wanted to save a few bucks on that hard drive or RAM upgrade and install the stuff yourself.. As a rule, follow the same steps you'd use in upgrading a PC--especially anti-static protection. Nothing will ruin your day by shocking your Mac or its parts to death. Trust me on this one.

I found on MacWindows some very interesting information on getting Mac OS X to work with login authentication with Windows Active Directory. I've been dying to try it, but tasks at work make it impossible. I hope to have some time to play with it later this week.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

I'm not dead, but my computer plays dead at home.

Sorry for the dead air. Current workloads slow down matters, and there's been some quiet on the Macintosh newsfront.

I installed the Mac OS X 10.2.2 update on my home computer, a new dual-867MHz system, last weekend. I don't really know why.

I knew that 10.2.2 would hose my printing with my OfficeJet printer and cause severe OS performance problems thanks to an incompatibility with an HP printing process. The solution is to kill that process, but I still get pretty bad performance. Perhaps I shouldn't use almost all of my disk space by recording so many TV shows using my Eye TV PVR.

I think I can blame it to plain stupidity. I consider myself a good tech, but I have lots of "blonde moments."

Friday, November 15, 2002

Mac OS X 10.2.2 Update appears to be a Good Thing.

That's on par with the updates for Apple. One very bad bug that appears fixed involved file corruption when copying files to and from a Windows SMB share. That feature was OK in 10.2 but broke with the 10.2.1 update.

Haven't really seen much more in the way of features or stability, however, this is another Good Thing, where problems with the OS don't affect everyone to the extent that you notice any changes except the positive. Kinda like a car tune-up or a set of new tires.

If any of your systems are modified dramatically, such as a processor upgrade, watch out with Jaguar--I'm seeing weird things occur with some older configurations where OS 10.2 caused oddities and the 10.2.1 update killed the system with kernel panics. My friend, who owns my old Blue and White with a 550MHz processor upgrade from PowerLogix has been plagued with strange lines and styations on the GUI. Fewer show up with the colors in millons on the video card. Everything appears normal when runnning Mac OS 9.

I'm hoping that the problem is tied down to hardware, such as the ATA controller expansion card to bypass the system's flawed original controller, which corrupted a drive over time. I'll be installing his 10.2 on the original hard drive on the original drive to see how things go. Let's hope it's not the processor.

I think Gateway is not long for this world.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Busy as hell right now with the real job.

There's a lot of news and tidbits going on, but personal time is scarce at the moment to do it justice. I may have some very startling personal news as well. More to come in the coming 24 hours.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Wow. It's interesting to have your name dragged around in the mud for a few minutes.

My review of Sam's book on UNIX system administration is up on Slashdot. Someone not-so-nicely questioned my authority to write a review, as if I'm being paid to write this stuff. He thought I was someone else. Please. We're using Slashdot, for cryin' out loud, where opinions are like *ssholes--everybody has one. Even poor ones.

Still, the remaining responses are interesting, with quite a lot of funny responses on "future" titles. The "Learn Women in 24 Hours" idea would be a crack best seller in the geek world, in my opinion.

I haven't dived into the innards of the new Mac OS X 10.2.2 update. More on this development shortly as I wade through the installation experiences from the nuts--er--um--that is, those who chose to install early.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Microsoft tries its hand at innovation (again).

Never mind that few companies genuinely use the term in the proper meaning. Commercially speaking, the original Macintosh interface was innovative. The Segway is innovative for its repackaging of technology to create a unique product. But there have been plenty of tablet computers, of which only one type--the portable digital assistants such as those from Palm and PocketPC--have been commercially successful. (Do you know which company created the first true, albeit commercially unsuccessful, PDA device?)

Microsoft announced its Tablet PC concept to the approximately two or three press members who weren't obsessed with Tuesday's election results. In fact, the news was pretty overshadowed by actress Winona Ryder's conviction.

Be that as it may, few people are enthusiastic at this new package on older technology, particularly with matters such as limited battery life, its use of a version of Windows XP, and poor handwriting recognition. Still, Microsoft has deep, deep pockets, and has been known to use their wealth to hang on the back of their competition like a Borg cube chasing the Starship Enterprise.

Personally, I don't find the device very innovative, but innovation is different from functionality. There's a ergonomic and practical limit to the size and definition of a portable data unit, such as a PDA or a sheet of paper. Essentially, it can't be smaller than what the eyes can see without assistance, or what the human hand can hold. Further, it should have a long battery life, or need no power assistance at all.

This point, to me, is why we aren't running around with tablets instead of newspapers or books. There's also a personal feel, an aesthetic quality to paper or a book as opposed to the greater ultimate fraility of a tablet. In comparison to a tablet PC, paper is practically indestructible. One drop of your tablet to a hard concrete sidewalk would prove my point.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

A few more pieces on Macs in the enterprise and server space can be found here and here.
Does it seem like I can't stop talking about Jedi Knight II? Guess what? I won't talk about it!

At least, not in this post, anyway.

I submitted a book review of Teach Yourself UNIX System Administration in 24 Hours by UNIX guru and writer Dave Taylor on the ever-popular geek chatboard, Slashdot. I'll let you know when or if it's published on the site.

The nutshell: It's a great rosetta stone book. If you know Linux, this book will familarize you with how some things are done differently with Mac OS X and Solaris. Quite useful, and now part of my growing sysadmin collection.
More talk about Apple's vaporware feature set on Slashdot, and an Apple training inspiration, thanks to a fan.

I should've thought about this article myself, seeing that I was knee-deep with an Xserve and Mac OS X Server 10.1 and 10.2, trying to get the various authentication processes operating. I did vent and put in my 2 cents, however.

Kudos to Paul from Typing Out Loud for the fan mail. He asked me whether Apple certifications would probably be worth it for his locale in St. Louis, especially given the costs involved since Apple doesn't make their classes cheap at all. The basic answer, I said, depends on the job opportunities around your area, as well as your own experience. I've been working with Macs since 1987 and PCs longer than that, so I had a lot of background before I turned pro. The Apple Certified Technical Coordinator certification is my first elective accreditation. To fix Macintosh systems as an Apple agent, I had to pass an Apple Service Technician exam, so I didn't feel I needed much more. In fact, until last year, Apple didn't offer anything else for professional accreditation.

Thus far, you can't go down to a bookstore and pick up an Apple study guide, and their classes are about $1,000 a pop. Then, while responding to Paul, I thought of a cheaper solution. Why not buy or borrow (wink-wink) a copy of Mac OS X or Mac OS X Server and train using it? OS X Server may be harder to get because it is a serialized application with an install code, but it's not impossible. The OS comes in a 10-user version for $500, and an unlimited-use version for $1000. After that, the only cash you'd need would be $150 per Prometric exam. So, if you're going to drop some cash, at least get a copy of the OS and have a real experience with it. All this assumes that you have a Mac available to run it on, of course.

Paul's site runs on Moveable Type, and looks great. So that's yet another positive note for moving my blog to that environment.

In other news, Apple just released their first 1GHz PowerBook, now with a slot-loading SuperDrive CD-RW/DVD-R writer installed. Portable DVD burning. Sweet. This system might have a stronger impact in the broadcast media, where PowerBooks are showing up often where a quick record, edit, and transmission to the studio for broadcasts is a needed tool in remote areas. Might also make my job pretty interesting if I can justify it at my customer site...

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

The last post should show my e-mail address, but didn't. Apparently I found a glitch in Blogger. Ponderous, man, ponderous!
What a "lovefest" with the Indianapolis Apple Store grand opening on Saturday.

This is a differently designed store from the original 25. Apple has reduced the relative size to save on lease space costs, but the change isn't a big matter except for the loss of their mini-theater. You can see some good photos thanks to Justin Williams' camerawork.

On a personal note, the store had a copy of the long-awaited Star Wars: Jedi Knight II game. And yes, I did a Snoopy-happy-happy dance out of the store and to my car. For those interested, a demo of the game for Mac OS 9 and X is available. It's identical to the PC version. The demo is 67MB in size to download, so don't do this over a dial-up modem connection--wait for the demo to appear on the CD of a future edition of MacAddict magazine.

This game shows in gameplay, however, that something in Windows is heavily leveraged for stronger performance in comparison to a Mac OS X system. My brand-new dual-processor system with a GeForce 4 MX 32MB DDR video card can use 90% of the superior graphic settings, but no more without suffering performance issues. In comparison, an Athlon 1GHz system I once owned last summer with an older GeForce 256 card did spectacularly well. I suspect DirectX's influence, but then, maybe this is also a matter of the multitasking mode that UNIX creates, just as Virtual PC isn't as fast in Mac OS X as it is in the less-advanced, cooperatively-multitasking Mac OS 9. Multiplayer support should be stronger as this version supports multiple processors.

But, back to business. The store should help quite a bit for home and small business users who want Apple products or support. Until that opening, support was sporadic throughout the town, although an oasis or two could be found, such as The Mac Experience, a local retailer in downtown Indy where I bought my Mac. I like them. They were personable and, knowing that the Apple Store was coming, has worked with Avis Rent-a-Car-like determination not to be forgotten. For central Indianapolis users, I will likely point them first to MacExperience before the Apple Store just from a location standpoint, but overally, Apple does hold the cards for the strongest service since they own the whole thing.

Been working on a problem with NFS exports. Mac OS X supports NFS, but its configuration must be handled through the NetInfo Manager application. Compared to other UNIX flavors, NFS configuration in Mac OS X is an extreme pain. I found an application called NFS Manager, which simplifies the process by mating a GUI that handles the configuration details above the board.

The problem I have involves the exporting of HFS volumes, particularly those that use spaces in their names. I suspect that DVDs and CDs must have properly formatted volume names for other UNIXs to mount them. I have no problem in exporting them--its the client connectivity that's the problem. More to come on this.

Another problem at my customer's site involves specialized color copiers that use the EDOX print servers. Printing is generally OK with Mac OS 9 and its AppleTalk printing. Mac OS X appears to be a no-go, however, even under AppleTalk. If you're familiar with this problem (or NFS), posted by Kevin at

Friday, November 01, 2002

Can't we all just get along? Hell, no. Linux isn't ready for anyone but geeks, and the zealots should really wake up to that fact so they can get to work on fixing Linux to make it an "average Joe" operating system.

Yet another article from Open for Business discusses the value of Linux over Mac OS X, a follow up to his original article. That is, at least that's the point I think he was trying to make. Unfortunately, his article works from a bias more than from a balanced look at why Linux shines or dulls. In a nutshell, Linux is better because he claims it is. Some quick quotes from his article and my comments to them follow:

"It all started at the beginning of this month, when I published the article Mac OS X: An Apple a Day keeps the Penguins Away?, which clearly noted that in every area, GNU/Linux was nearly as good, as good, or even better than Mac OS X for the average user. "

Subjective, and likely false. The "average user" is not defined. Linux is a great server OS, but can be nightmarish to configure. Almost all home computers ship with a version of Microsoft Windows. Virtually all business users use Windows as well. There some Macs and other operating systems scattered in there, but Linux is definitely a major player. What "average user" can find, install, and configure Linux? Where's the statistics or study to back this up?

"I expected to be told about how easy it was to use Mac OS X, or how much better the software was. Instead, the majority of "reasons" I was given were focused on specialty applications such as Photoshop and Final Cut. One person asked me something to the effect of "tell me where I can get Quark Xpress for Linux."

That's a fair enough question - if I were covering desktop publishing, but I was not. This shows a major lack of understanding on a very crucial topic - the typical user. I'm sure to the person who asked me that, he felt this was a serious lacking in Linux that made Mac OS X greatly superior. That's a big problem for those in decision making roles, as it is very hard to make sense of what system is ready for the average user when many people don't even understand who the average user is."

Circular reasoning. Most businesses and home users buy a computer to accomplish a task, not to just own a computer that runs a particular operating system. Only geeks give a rat's patootie if the box runs Linux or BSD or Windows. The "average user" is NOT a geek, yet the writer implies this in his writing. This appears to be Linux geek zealotry, with no real logic that validates that Linux is any better or worse as an operating system. The question that readers have naturally punched up is that Linux is very weak with mainstream applications that many businesses require. Damn the GNU and its ideology, some may say. We need to get some work done, not tool around with the computer like an expensive pet toy.

"Okay, so I've said the user does not necessarily want Quark Xpress, and I've also stated that he doesn't want amazing eyecandy. What is it that he does want? It's simple really - usability and the ability to do simple tasks (e-mail, web browsing, letter writing, and so forth). This is all stuff that the GNU/Linux desktop is ready and waiting to offer, in fact, for simple tasks, Linux has a big advantage over the Macintosh. You can take your existing PC, and within an hour, have a system fully loaded with everything you need - not what Bob in marketing decided you should have (like Windows) or what seems "flat out cool" (like Mac OS), but rather what you need to make your computer a productive environment."

Huh? It appears the writer is getting a firm grasp of the obvious by the end of the second sentence, but from there, his logic falls apart. He speaks of Linux as a single entity, which is a falsehood. Linux has as many identities as there are distributions from makers such as Red Hat, SuSE, Mandrake, Yellow Dog, and others. NONE of these distributions provide virtually identical or virtually consistent interfaces to get a task done. Available or installed applications vary throughout the distributions. Unlike Linux versions, almost all of which come with tweaked KDE or GNOME interfaces where menus and commands differ widely, Mac OS and Windows provide a more consistent experience because they limit the number of options, rather than attempting to design a graphic interface by committee. That doesnt mean that Linux is worthless. It just means that the various flavors don't provide any consistency that supports his point. If the writer pointed to a specific distro, and pointed to some statistics on the number of users of that OS, and present other facts, it would make an interesting argument. As it stands, this is only an opinion, and not a factual one.

Another point: Most of the applications found in various Linux flavors do NOT work as their Windows or Mac OS counterparts. Hell, practically every system configuration tool in Linux is quite foreign in comparison to a Mac OS or Windows installation. How successful a person can install and configure Linux depends greatly on the version used and the hardware it's installed to. Linux's ability to detect hardware has improved, but it is nowhere as reliable as Windows, and definitely a far cry from the Mac OS (old or new). I've been using Red Hat 8 for a few weeks now, and it took me several minutes to figure out where to change the screen resolution, much less understand how to change it. He's not making his point at all to those who have used both Mac OS X and Linux and can provide a valid comparison.

OK...enough publicity for him. I don't believe the writer has used Mac OS X in any capacity, and his article really reads more like a Linux advocacy or zealtry piece. Mac OS X, as many operating systems, has lots of warts. Mac OS X is also about 2 years old, and has a lot of time to mature. Linux has been around for 10 years and, while a great server OS and even desktop OS for those who can take the time to learn it and configure it to what they need (read: your average geek user), is a non-issue to an average home or business user. Why? A simple reason that's easily proven: Linux is not shipped on most PCs or Macs, and so Linux is not even a known quantity to the typical home or business user.

Most users just want to buy software and install it without having to answer questions any more complex than where to install it and what features to include in the installation. Linux does not offer that experience yet. Many installations require use of a command line. Not even Windows, which evolved from a command line, requires this of its users any longer for almost all software.

One more comment that shows this writer's zealtry, rather than enough objectivity to call a spade a spade:

"In the end, the point is not whether or not Mac OS X can serve a particular "speciality" community best (such as publishing), but rather if it can serve the average user best. So far, no one has been able to argue that this is the case, and for good reason - the average user is unlikely to need any features that Mac OS X has that GNU/Linux does not.

And if that's the case, why choose a proprietary - and expensive - system over one that is Free as in both freedom and price?"

Zealots. A quote I overheard--on Slashdot, of all places, puts this comment to rest: "Linux is only completely free if you value the time it takes for you to install and configure it as worthless." Same is true for any OS, but, unless you are a geek, and your hardware is fortunate enough to be modern, but not too modern, Linux is not ready for prime-time for the average user. Apple is as proprietary a computer as Compaq, and Dell, and HP, and IBM, and Gateway. All of them can run Linux. Every one who buys these computers chooses to do so. They don't have a gun to their head. Many of them want an experience that Linux can't yet provide. A few of these buyers are geeks that KNOW that Linux can't provide what they need yet.

Linux has a long and bountiful future, and will succeed in some places where Mac OS X is only an also-ran. But crap like this that poses as logical commentary doesn't help the OSS cause when its statements have more holes than Bonnie and Clyde after the feds ambushed them.
I passed a couple of Apple certification exams on Wednesday.

I'm now an Apple Certified Technical Coordinator. Not that my experience and skills wasn't good enough for muster, but it's a good thing to have some professional accreditation and validation outside of the old Apple Service Technician testing, which is Apple's equivalent to the various service tests required by other computer vendors that allow techs to certify as competent to break open their computers without voiding the warranty. In other words, not particularly glamourous.

Next stop on the certification realm: an ACSA, or Apple Certified System Administrator. This is Apple's direct equivalent of a Microsoft Certified System Engineer, or MCSE. In fact, the coursework includes administration and configuration not only in Mac OS X, but Windows 2000, XP, and UNIX. Courses will be available sometime this winter, and based on Mac OS X 10.2 client and Server. Hopefully these courses will be less expensive than when I last saw them offered for 10.1: each of the four classes needed for the four tests were over $1,000 apiece. The new 10.2 exams require three tests, one of which is elective.

By April, I'll need to retake my Service Technician certification and, as a certain chef says, have to kick it up a notch. Apple has figured out that annual recertifications are good for their pocketbook as well as keeping inexperienced techs from screwing things up. So, to ensure that techs have software as well as hardware knowledge, Apple is revamping their old Service Technician program of desktop and portable hardware testing to form the Apple Certified Desktop Technician (ACDT) and Apple Certified Portable Technician (ACPT) certifications. Not only does this include the general tests to demonstrate your competency in repairing hardware, but now I'll need to take a Mac OS examination. The test can be one of several offered publicly for the ACTC or ACSA track. ACDT and ACPT certifications are available only to Apple Authorized Service Providers, such an Apple employees at an Apple Store or people like myself who work with an AASP-approved company. There is a public version of the old Service Technician tests, but unlike Apple's private hardware certifications, you can't repair warrantied equipment as Apple's agent or order parts from Apple. You can combine its relative prestige with the ACTC and ACSA tests, both of which are publicly available.
I took the ACTC tests built on Mac OS X 10.1, which has been superceded by 10.2. Tests for 10.2 should be available soon. If you have any Apple certifications received prior to October 14, 2002, you'll have to recertify.

Unfortunately, you can't just trot down to your local bookstore and pick up a study guide on the various Apple tests. No one's made any that I know of (although I have considered it). So you can't quite self-study the curricula, leaving you two options: Don't study, or attend one of Apple's training courses. These courses are not cheap, however. You do get the advantage of a classroom atmosphere to ask specific questions and real hardware and software to play with as you train.

Thankfully, once you are certified for ACDT and ACPT, an open-book retest will be provided online at no charge.