Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Happy New Year.

Not much throughout this week to discuss, primarily due to the holidays. However, a Macworld Expo trade show begins in less than a week.

Do I have any impressive predictions for what Steve Jobs may show in his keynote address that opens the show? Not a one. But what do I expect to see?

Expectation 1: No "G5" or any new processors, yet. Maybe in July. Expect speed bumps on existing architecture, however, especially with the iBooks.

Expectation 2: A major change to FireWire and USB. Apple was probably reticent to add USB 2.0 to their systems before they updated FireWire. I suspect they are ready to unveil "Gigawire," a.k.a. FireWire 2.0.

Expectation 3: Updates on existing iApps. iSync is finalized. Maybe a new app.

Expectation 4: No other extreme surprises, except maybe a release date for QuarkXPress for Mac OS X.

I'll start the New Year with a discussion on OpenGL performance and games in Mac OS X--a subject close to my heart since all of my games (Medal of Honor, Jedi Knight II, and especially Return to Castle Wolfenstein) experience unexpected quits during gameplay. I've scanned the console crash logs and found something odd. More later. Happy 2003, everyone. Stay safe and not too much partying, please.

Monday, December 23, 2002

It's the holidays (for most Christians, anyway). What the heck are you doing here?

Go enjoy your families, not your computers, this week. OK, OK...bop the kids/nephews/nieces/cousins on your knees for a few minutes and kiss the spouse/significant-other passionately at least a couple of times before you break the shrinkwrap on that new game.

I've been enjoying Phillip Windley's blog on IT issues in the government sector. He had a different seat to view these issues than most, as he is (well, for a few more days anyway) the Chief Information Officer for the State of Utah.

I've enjoyed Phillip's site as a model for this blog: Informative views, an open mind to new technology, and a well-designed, searchable site He's using Radio,, the RSS-able blog software where I have decided to switch this blog sometime in the first quarter of 2003. A great, all around tech opinion site.

I caught wind of his site when he spoke of the consumer laptop, the iBook. On Friday, Phillip announced that he purchased a PowerBook G4 1GHz laptop to replace his XP laptop that has to go back to the State of Utah.. He's in hog heaven--and so am I, as a matter of fact.

Last week, I switched from a company-owned PowerBook FireWire laptop (still a strong system for OS X if you have a lot of RAM) to the same setup as Phillip. While I enjoy my new dual-867MHz G4 desktop at home, there's a stronger integration of power with this laptop. Nothing feels slow on this computer.

See you in multiplayer Return to Castle Wolfenstein world (I'm "JackStryker", in case you're interested) throughout the week, and have the holiest, if not happiest, of end-of-year holidays.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Mac OS X 10.2.3 is now available from Software Update.

Remember--don't be a bleeding edge user unless you want to be. Wait over the weekend to see what happened to those who didn't.

Two welcome fixes: Provides a fix for the HP Communications stall, and improves speed of Virtual PC 6.0 (which just happened to be released yesterday). At least Connectix is pretty innovative with each version. About the only thing that Apple didn't add was Java 1.4 support.

No GUI for its IPSec support yet, however, several companies such as Equinux's VPN Tracker and the recently announced free VaporSec provide you with alternatives.
The GNU-Darwin project is about to kill itself over GNU/Free Software ideology. And what is it with Apple and WEP support?

Find out more on Slashdot, and MacSlash (who broke the article). Sic semper stultus.

Here are interesting experiences on installing an Xserve in the classroom from Low End Mac.

I've been having a hard time locating information on WEP key support in AirPort wireless networking. Specifically, can AirPort support several WEP keys instead of having to type in a single key? In products available for Windows, this is possible. Also, getting an existing WEP key to work can be problematic if the key is a long string (alphanumeric or hex). The use of AirPort isn't very consistent on non-Apple wireless networks, and its an example of Apple either ignoring the problem or choosing to work in its near-disasterous "Not Invented Here" mode that almost killed the company.

If you know of a source for AirPort WEP support, drop me a line.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Real One Player for Mac OS X is now available as a final product.

I've been very impressed by this client, especially over its RealPlayer for OS 9 versions. (Works great with geeky things such as NASA TV.) Get it here.

Things are going to get quieter here with Macintosh news quieting over the American holidays. However, I've been hoping to dive into my Mac OS X-to-Active Directory authentication testing as a new Windows 2000 server is coming up that will support it live on my client's network. If I'm able to play around between now and the start of the new year, you'll see my initial reports here.

Friday, December 13, 2002

SMB corruption in Jaguar: Fixed or not fixed?

I, along with a few others, sent a note to the preeminient online Windows-Macintosh integration resource, MacWindows, regarding SMB file corruption in Jaguar. I noted problems with SMB after updating to 10.2.1. Original Jaguar's (10.2.0) SMB implementation was functional, and not as slow as in previous versions of OS X. At my workplace I used SMB to connect weekly to a share on a Windows server to update an Excel spreadsheet.

After 10.2.1, my Excel spreadsheets wouldn't open. I kept getting damaged-file messages. I confirmed that the problem was with SMB by copying a known-good Excel file to SMB, then attempting to open the file from the share and then after copying the file back to my Mac. Both were damaged.

After installing 10.2.2, the corruption disappeared. I figured the problem solved, and I noted it here.. One reader, whose name isn't recorded now on the site (thanks for reading!) relayed my assessment that 10.2.2 appeared to fix the corruption. However, a reader on MacWindows posted today that 10.2.2 doesn't appear to fix the problem for him. He used QuickTime movies to identify the problem.

So, the question remains: is it or isn't it fixed? I suspect that we're both right. Windows works differently in some locations under different network conditions, among other things. It may be possible that he experienced corruption because he copied a non-flattened QuickTime movie from a Mac to a Windows share. When you do that to any Macintosh binary file without stripping its resource fork, the fork gets mushed into the data, causing it to become damaged. I can't confirm that since the report doesn't indicate the kind of file he used. I did copy a QuickTime movie (flattened) back and forth from my SMB share without problems, including playing it from the share.

I suspect that the reader's file wasn't flattened. I also haven't read a lot of problems about SMB and Jaguar on other sites. What has been your experience? Feel free to write me about your experiences.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Quark has a sound of desperation, if a recent rumor is true.

An article on the Apple rumors web site Think Secret indicates that Quark Corporation is making phone calls to assure customers that they will still be able to buy Macintosh systems that can boot into Mac OS 9, contrary to Apple's announcement that systems sold in 2003 will boot in Mac OS X only and cannot use Mac OS 9 except in the Classic Environment mode.

This doesn't ring well in my mind. Quark is obviously reacting to something. Could their worries involve the recent bad press concerning their view that the Macintosh and publishing market is shrinking, and that moving to QuarkXPress for Windows is a better idea? Concerned that, with that bad publicity, that even more Macintosh users are seriously making a move to Adobe InDesign 2.0?

Hopefully Quark's own bad missteps will light a fire under their butt. My worry, however, is that Quark is an explosive , unpredictable commodity.
It may be snowing in Indianapolis, but the flames are being fanned on a few pages.

This simple, uninformed article on IT-Director.com is ignited to approximately 1500 degrees by this equally strange response on the same site.

Not particularly newsworthy, but the two articles do show the polar extremes of the Macintosh-ignorant and the Macintosh-zealot. If I were In Charge, I'd take away their computers, give them an Atari 2600 and force them to find some greater meaning in their lives. Perhaps a high score in "Pong."

Another piece in the Apple digital hub and professional editing puzzle fell: Apple announced that a new version of QuickTime is coming that supports cell phones. Not big news except when you think how Apple tends to put a twist on technologies they didn't invent.

In case you didn't believe me, Jedi Knight II for the Macintosh is really a great game. A G4 with a powerful video card is best. I'm really obsessed, however, with the multiplayer version of Return to Castle Wolfenstein.

"I need ammo!"

Monday, December 09, 2002

Don't use "Mac" to abbreviate "Macintosh" if you want any chance to be taken seriously.

I've seen far too many articles where the term "Mac" is used to talk of all things Macintosh, and it annoys the hell out of me. It's not the same as how some Star Trek fans feel at being called a 'Trekkie' as opposed to a 'Trekker.', but for other more professional reasons.

For one, the letters "mac" means another thing in the field of information technology. If you're talking about the unique identification code on Ethernet network interface cards, you're speaking of its Media Access Control, or MAC address. Unfortunately, inexperienced IT people will typically write "MAC" (in capitals) to describe a Macintosh. In the United Kingdom, a "mac" is a umbrella.

Another reason to keep to "Macintosh" and not "Mac" is how some IT people use the term "Mac" with derision as they say it. The term "Mac" has turned into a slur in the IT world. Honestly, the term "Macintosh" doesn't hold a lot of weight, either, which is probably one reason why you don't see either term in describing the new Xserve rack mount server.

Just my two cents for the day. I have a lot of my plate at the job, so no more commentary today.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Trust me: Don't blindly install everything that Apple provides via Software Update.

Specifically, you need to read the instructions for all updates before you begin any update.

I've been reading lots of readers caught in gotchas caused by the Power Mac G4 Mirrored Drive Doors Firmware Update, the Mac OS X 10.2.2. update, and other installations. For many of these users, the problem comes down to neglecting to think about what you're doing. Hell, even I've been guilty of doing this a few weeks ago when I updated my MDD Power Mac to 10.2.2, knowing that it would hose my computer due to a bug with the HP printing software that causes its drivers to hog processing time until your Mac slows to a crawl or kernel panics.

And why did I do it? Because I wasn't thinking. I was caught in that Macintosh mode of thinking where we expect the moon and the stars from anything that Apple provides to us, especially if it's a freebie. It's a different psychology than what some PC users may understand, where caution is much stronger than in the Macintosh world. When most Mac users buy software, we rip the CD from the case, install the software, and damn any manuals or instructions that come with the program. In the earlier years of the Macintosh, this wasn't as much of a problem because of the simpler design. However, this ain't your dad's Mac. It's your Mac, and it's running not only a different Mac OS, but likely has a dramatically different hardware design that requires a little more care.

Professionals and home users need to use some common sense steps for any software update or install:

1) READ the instructions about any software installation or update.
2) UNDERSTAND what the update or install is supposed to do. If you don't understand the purpose of a particular update, don't install it until you find someone that knows and can explain it to you.
3) WAIT several days after an update is introduced before you even THINK about installing an update. If there are real problems with the software itself, this problem will show itself from the many trouble reports you'l see on the Internet. In other words, let other more careless people "beta-test" the updates for you in advance.

Two good places to visit for trouble reports are MacFixit or Apple's Discussion Boards on their Support Page.

4) READ the instructions for the update again.
5) PRINT a copy of the instructions BEFORE you begin.
6) DETERMINE A PLAN to revert the change (if the update allows it)
7) DECIDE if the update is really worth installing.

Remember that users who have tweaked their Mac OS X installation dramatically (read: against Apple's recommended configuration) may experience a bad time. If you have hacked an old Mac (read: not an original G3 or G4) to run Mac OS X, you should already know that you're running the bleeding edge of compatibility.

It's a good thing that we have BSD underneath our Mac OS GUI. It leaves many more possibilities for repairs or changes, unlike in the old Mac OS 9 days where we'd have to wait for Apple to get with the problem and provide a fix. A good example: after the HP printer software problem appeared with the 10.2.2 update, several enterprising people developed several workarounds and temporary fixes while Apple and HP slowly find an official solution.

Your mileage may vary with any update. Don't experience "Go Fever" with your Macintosh, or things could blow up real good.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Macworld Expo Tokyo Cancellation: Good or Bad?

I'm a little split on IDC's announcement, as relayed through MacUser in the U.K. On one hand, I'm all for Apple consolidating their resources to one or two trade shows in the places where they count most. On the other hand, Japan is Apple's strongest international market, with a disparately large proportion of Macintosh users in comparison to those in the U.S.

To a degree, I'm all for eliminating one of the two Macworld trade shows in the U.S. The summer show is normally held in New York, but recent events are returning it to Boston, its original host city. Apple didn't take that change lightly since The Big Apple is a larger consumer base, and threatened to withdraw from that program. (I haven't yet heard a follow-up on this matter.) The only program that hasn't been threatened is the San Francisco trade show, likely since Apple has to spend fewer resources to attend that show (Apple's headquarters are in Cupertino, CA).

Apple has been trying to break the cycle where their sales dip as conscientious Mac die-hards await new products from an upcoming trade show. By going to a single U.S. show, Apple may suffer only one dip, as well as getting more marketing and resource bang for their bucks. It leaves Apple to announce new product with greater surprise and less rumormongering, which erodes the marketing effect.

Apple fills in the quiet holiday anticipation with an interesting and anticipated twist on FireWire technology.

Apple Developer Connection is offering a preview release of their IP over FireWire technology. Essentially, this allows two or Mac OS X systems to be networked together and use any IP-based resources, but over their high speed FireWire connection.

Slashdot has an article about this introduction. I can see it as a quick way to form a LAN game party, myself. No hub required--just a lot of FireWire cables.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

I think this article from ComputerUser hits the nail on the head regarding Apple's future markets.

After reading it, I've begun rethinking where Apple's strengths should be placed, rather than which markets that Apple appears to show interest.

I think that Apple has almost lost the education market to the Windows/Dell sales powerhouse. No longer are computers isolated, so the little Apple computer in the corner has been replaced by mobile, wireless storage bays filled with laptops. Apple does offer mobile labs of its own, but I think that Apple's losing this battle for the same reason that they aren't firing on all thrusters with the enterprise sales market. Not nearly as many teachers maintain their computers today as opposed to the past; many schools or school districts have IT departments. Guess what kind of training and experience are dominant in school IT departments?

Like in enterprise, Apple must provide exhaustive and extensive documentation on mating Apple products to the larger Windows infrastructure. But the problems don't stop there, I thought, which led me to the prediction that Apple's education installed base will not increase and its market share will not get much better without one major element: software.

Education software is a peculiar beast. Most consumer education titles have always been written to work for both Macintosh as well as Windows. This trend, however, has been breaking. Companies such as Disney and Mattel have predominantly Windows-only titles, and quite a few companies that made the hybrids have had financial trouble and have folded, changed their business model, or have been bought out by a larger, less Macintosh-hospitable software development group.

Professional administrative software such as PowerSchool has been bought by Apple to shore up matters, but the OS and admin support may not matter if classroom-oriented titles don't appear in a Mac OS X version. I'm hard pressed to find many OS X native titles for education.

Never mind the available hardware. Without a sufficient Mac OS X-compatible software base for education, Apple has a much more difficult hike up an already very steep and dangerous mountain. Because of Apple' s past business sins, educators still think that Apple is an obscure technology island where they don't care to get stranded.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Apple's reputation is being polished by its product, but they've missed some spots.

A recent InfoWorld article talks about the doldrums that is the IT industry. A shining point, so sayeth the writer, is Apple, who looked the economy's realities in its face and denied it, bringing forth new ideas (or better packaged ones) to keep its ship afloat in a stormy sea of slow PC sales.

Does that mean that Apple is in better or worse shape? Generally, it's better. However, they can really shore up two areas: Enterprise and Education. The education market is just turning to Mac OS X, primarily because the applications they need aren't Mac OS X-ready and the deeper server support is a mixed bag--while Mac OS X Server supports both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X clients, the server operating system's network booting feature (NetBoot) still supports Mac OS 9 (as of 10.1--I know 10.2 should have a stronger feature by now).

Apple really gave itself credit with its first enterprise-level rack mount server. However, it needs more redundancy and stronger documentation. Apple is generally geared to write text for their home and small end-user consumers in the business market. But enterprise really wants exhaustive and proven methods, not promises such as the LDAP/Active Directory integration in 10.2 that doesn't really work using Apple's documentation (some third-parties have worked it out--a topic to revisit very soon once I have access to an AD domain to test it with).

To sum it up: Apple's grade is a B. Just a bit more polish is needed for the markets that Apple has let languish for one reason or another.

A link to an interesting article relayed from MacCentral on the increasing popularity of Mac OS X Server products.