Posts in category apple - page 17

Mac Mini Intel isn’t my digital life

This week Apple unveiled their new Mac Mini powered by the Intel Core Duo processor and using Intel’s core graphics, effectively giving it a significant boost whilst still retaining the attractive £400 price point.

Apple are now saying “Live the digital life” and implying that the mini belongs as part of a home entertainment system. They’ve even gone so far as to bundle it with their Front Row media center and an Apple Remote control.

Problem 1: Capacity

The mini, in order to achieve mini sizes, uses laptop hard disks which currently top out at 120GB. My iPod is 60GB and although it’s nowhere near full of music I can easily imagine adding my photo library and some video content will soon max out that 120GB. Then you’re having to use external USB drives.

Problem 2: Content delivery

If you have satellite or cable TV you may well be expecting this will be your primary source of video content but the mini and Front Row do not support external media devices, let alone TV guides or PVR/recording functionality.

Some people are putting Front Row against Windows Media Center which is quite amazing when you consider that Front Row lacks such basic video-feed functionality. Companies like TiVo have proven there’s certainly a market for it.

I can’t help but worry that Apple’s view of TV broadcasting is the same as it’s ideas on radio, i.e. it’s obsolete and that they should offer the content themselves.

Perhaps when they launch their updated iPod Video with bigger screen they’ll launch their fabled movie download service and expect users to acquire video and audio content exclusively through their store.

I’d be interested in knowing how they’ll squeeze high-definition content down my broadband line and onto a 120GB hard disk even with H.264 encoding.

Or maybe they’ll expect users to watch low-resolution iPod encoded video on their home TV’s. At 320×240 it’s quarter the resolution of existing TV.

On a high-definition system at 1280×720 you’d be utilizing about 8% of your systems resolution capability compared with 44% utilization on a PAL DVD.

Looks like Front Row and the mini won’t be part of my media center any time soon.

[)amien

Why I haven’t yet ordered a MacBook Pro

My aging Dell 8100 is struggling with the recent demands of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 mostly due to the fact it only supports 512MB RAM. Paging is bad enough on a desktop but on a laptop with slower drives and battery drain…

MacBook Pro

Apple’s first x86 laptop is based on the Intel Core Duo processor and will be available later this month. The enclosure is very similar to the previous aluminum PowerBooks with some changes to the socket line-up but retaining the backlit keyboard and wide-screen aspect ratio.

Connections include a new magnetic power connector, FireWire 800 has been dropped and PCMCIA makes a departure to be replaced by ExpressCard/34. Optical digital output makes an appearance too while wireless connectivity is suited by both Bluetooth 2 and 802.11G networking.

Familiarity ends on the outside with the internals sporting a 667MHz front side bus equipped with DDR2 memory sitting round Intel’s latest chip which curiously Apple only supply up to 1.83GHz despite Intel having a 2GHz part. The hard-drive has gone SATA with Apple offering 120GB 5,400RPM or 100GB 7,200RPM drives.

Apple are now offering the 2.16GHz processor option (14/07/2006).

But what about Windows?

There is no way at the moment to run Windows XP on this at the moment. Apple went with Intel on their new replacement for the aging BIOS called EFI. EFI isn’t all-new having already made its début as part of Intel’s 64-bit Itanium platform but at the moment Windows XP doesn’t boot on it.

Microsoft have always claimed they are about shipping software and they don’t care about the platform but I can’t see them bending over backwards for Apple on this one. If Intel are pushing other OEMs to use EFI Microsoft could be pressured into back-porting the EFI support from Vista into a Windows XP service pack or EFI edition.

Virtualized Windows?

Dual-booting would be good but speedy virtualization like Virtual PC or VMware would be even better… but the Mac’s number one x86 emulator for the PPC, Virtual PC, was brought out by one Microsoft a couple of years ago.

For Microsoft this was a win-win-win deal; it gave them control over the Mac’s entry into the Windows world, gave them virtualization software for Windows and a code-base to work from for getting their x86 based Xbox games running on their PPC based Xbox 360.

The situation for Apple was much more bleak. The PPC G5 processor came from IBM and as such didn’t have some of the Motorola G4’s features that Virtual PC used… and Microsoft wasn’t quick in coming out with a new version although they eventually did.

There is of course the possibility somebody else will deliver that virtualization. I can’t see Apple itself compromising by providing it but VMware is one option although that would need substantial porting.

Another option might be Transitive who provided the technology behind the PPC emulation in OS X x86 called Rosetta although their product line-up currently consists of emulated processor and virtualization, not just pure virtualization as would be required.

While we’re on the Apple subject check out the responses to the original iPod announcement over at MacRumors forums.

[)amien

Apple to the Channel Islands – Get lost

Last week I was at the Apple Store UK ordering a universal dock connector for my iPod. Unexpectedly the the shipping address was not accepted – it claimed they were unable to accept orders from my post-code.

This was a strange turn of events – I’ve ordered a PowerBook G4, iLife, Apple Pro Keyboard, 20GB iPod and various other accessories in the past. I’ve not changed address or post-code for over a year so what’s the problem?

One telephone call and 6 Apple staff later I’m finally told they are no longer delivering to the Channel Islands. Apparently this is a new policy introduced in the last few weeks, perhaps I missed the big announcement or maybe they kept it quiet. They couldn’t tell me the reasoning why or just where I should now take my business.

Luckily for us here in Guernsey we have a local Apple authorized dealer called Guernsey Computers and their prices are quite reasonable. About an extra 5% on top of the non-VAT Apple Store prices. Our friends in Jersey aren’t so lucky and 20%+ is quite common – in fact the “Technology Store” here in Guernsey tends to put this sort of mark-up on their Apple goods too.

This does of course mean no more engraved iPods, no more education store or refurbished store pricing.

I guess the success of Apple’s iPod means they can just tell customers in minority regions to get lost.

Never mind the fact some were helping keep them afloat before they hit the iPod goldmine.

[)amien

What next for Mac OS X?

Well obviously the hot item for the next major release of Mac OS X will be Intel compatibility but I’m hoping they’ll get a chance to squeeze some new features in too. Here what I’d like to see next:

FrontRow

Apple’s new iMac-only media centre interface seems to gave garnered quite a bit of a attention. So much so that enterprising individuals have hacked it onto their Mac. Apple should make it available to non-iMac users, possibly as part of 10.5, the next iLife or maybe even bundled with the optional remote control.

User interface unification

Every new app Apple release seems to have a new user interface now. While the look is merely cosmetic the behavior is often affected leading people to expect one result and get another.

Here’s hoping the iTunes 6 UI trickles across through the whole system, perhaps even with a switch in control panel that lets people choose between that and Aqua. In the mean time check out Uno which sorts out as much as it can visually, behavior needs to be done by Apple.

If you feel like stealing what little Longhorn still had, check out the Ruler Aero theme instead.

Uninstaller

Back when OS X was still called OpenStep it featured a rather nice install system called Package Manager. OS X still has the installer part of this and indeed records the receipts for use by an uninstaller… That has never existed. Come on Apple, sometimes we need to uninstall apps and we’d rather not trudge around the /Library/ to clean up after them.

Microsoft Windows in a window

Apple have already claimed they will be encouraging dual-booting with Windows on their new Intel boxes even if not actively supporting it.

A better approach would be something similar to their Blue Box virtual machine running Mac OS 9 apps under OS X. As 10.4 will use their new Rosetta technology to run PowerPC apps on Intel this should be simple by comparison. The problem here is that they may need to get Microsoft to license them portions of VirtualPC.

iTunes DVD audio-track ripping

If Apple want to shift more of their higher end iPods whilst keeping the record labels in check, why not introduce a function to rip the audio soundtrack from DVD video’s to iPod’s. I for one have a bunch of comedy shows and stand-up material I’d like to have on the go and I’m sure not paying for them again.

[)amien