January 2005 News Archive
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We ordered a 512MB PC2700 DDR 333MHz RAM module on line and received it Friday. Unfortunately, the price of PC2700 DDR RAM jumped up in the past week from the recent mid-$60's so our module cost $84, plus $8.62 overnight delivery by DHL. We actually received a faster 512MB PC3200 DDR 400MHz module so perhaps a shortage of the slower PC2700 RAM may explain the recent price increase. To install the RAM in our Mac mini, we had to "crack" open its case again with our 4" putty knife. Thankfully, the second time we opened our Mac mini was much easier than the first.
Here are the results using our standard suite of speed tests using both "canned benchmarks" and "real world" tests. (see our speed test FAQ):
*Faster = higher scores and lower seconds. Average of 3 tests.
The results are virtually identical within normal statistical variation for our Mac mini using 256MB or 512MB of RAM. There is no evidence that the performance of the 1.25GHz Mac mini is in anyway impaired at 256MB of RAM.
However, two weeks ago we devised an additional test that would show more clearly the effects, if any, of different amounts of RAM. Our RAM test using Xbench and open applications is adequate to demonstrate the utility of adding RAM for general use but we decided to kick it up a notch to be more convincing. We added concurrent QuickTime Streaming of Steve Job's Macworld Expo keynote address and iTunes playing Beethoven's Sixth to the five open applications. Of couse, we also had the test application Xbench and Activity Monitor open to examine RAM usage.
Here is a table of RAM usage at 256MB and 512MB without the applications open (No Apps--white column), with them open (Apps--yellow column) and with QuickTime streaming and iTunes playing (Apps+--orange column):
At 256MB, there is a small change in the amount fo RAM assigned by Mac OS X to all categories when receiving QuickTime streaming and with iTunes playing (compare the orange vs yellow columns). The free RAM drops from the already small 7MB to 4MB. With 512MB, the RAM use allocation by category is substantially increased when receiving QuickTime streaming and iTunes is playing a song. Does this affect the performance of the 1.25GHz Mac mini? More importantly, does using 512MB ameliorate any of the performance hits?
Here are the speed test results with no applications open, five applications open and with QuickTime streaming and iTunes playing:
If one compares the Xbench scores with no applications open (white columns) with those for the five additionals apps open (yellow columns), there is a perfomance hit of 8 per cent or less, mostly less, whether using 256MB or 512MB of RAM. Opening a QuickTime stream plus playing a song on iTunes (orange columns) results in a further and significant performance hit that totals up to 49 per cent for the Mac mini using 256MB of RAM. However, the salient conclusion from comparing between yellow columns and between orange columns is that the additional 256MB RAM in the 512MB RAM module does not ameliorate the Xbench performance hit, at least not appreciably and certainly not to the point where it justifies an investment in the 512MB RAM module.
Do our tests throw conventional wisdom--more RAM is better--on its ear? Well, not exactly. For some, more RAM is still always better. It would be easy to construct a test that would clearly justify the expense of additional RAM. For example, loading a very large graphics file into Adobe Photoshop and then applying numerous filters to the image might even justify the near $200 expense of a 1GB RAM module for the Mac mini. But graphics professionals are not the target market for the Mac mini and such a test would be misleading to the people in Apple's Mac mini target market--entry-level or highly price-conscious users.
There was a day not too long ago when the convention "more RAM is better" applied to most people using Macs. Classic Mac OS required one to specifically allocate RAM to each application and RAM was very expensive so most people had too little RAM. It also applied in the early days of Mac OS X when new Macs came with a mere 64MB of RAM. But times have changed and convention has not yet caught up. With Mac OS X, 256MB of RAM in a low-end consumer Mac is more than adequate.
The RAM megabyte myth needs to be buried alongside the megahertz myth.
We installed the update on our copy of iMovie HD from the iLife '05 suite with no difficulty. We had not encountered any difficulties with iMovie HD but, then, we hadn't used it much either. [Bill Fox]
The favorable full review is on this web page. [Dana Baggett]
The new update delivers a number of security enhancements and is recommended for all Macintosh users. For detailed information on this Update, please visit this Apple web page. This update includes the following components:
We were able to update most of our Macs using the System Preferences software update pane with no problems. This included our new Mac mini that we updated using Apple Remote Desktop. However, two of our Macs, a G4 Cube and a 12" PowerBook G4, could not be updated that way. We got a "could not expand and verify" error message. We repaired permissions but to no avail so we downloaded the appropriate updater from this Apple support web page. The update installed with no further drama. So far we have no operating problems on any Mac since installing the update. [Dana Baggett & Bill Fox]
Here are some of the Game Design Track highlights:
Registration for GDC 2005 is open now. [Bill Fox]
Our spam load during week 6 declined over 100 from the previous 2 weeks. But for the past four weeks it seems that we have reached some kind of a plateau, averaging 1282 with a range of 1145-1385.
What could be causing this plateau in the road to near zero spam? Well one thing is inattention (or worse) from too many mail server administrators. We note that most of our spam now generates server abuse addresses in Eastern Europe, Korea and China, also where most of our failed deliveries are from, i.e. many of the abuse mail addresses in those countries lead to blocked or full mailboxes. It seems that one way to quickly reduce our spam further is to block/delete all email handled by servers from those countries at our host's email server since we never get any legitimate email from people in those countries anyway.
Sp@mX is up to version 3.2.6 as of this report. The interface has continued to improve as has its functionality. Recent versions have included a script to export spam from BareBones' Mailsmith 2 in a format that Sp@mX can use, adding more convenience for Mac users.
Our spam dropped precipituously during the first three weeks of using Sp@mX, a two-thirds reduction in our spam from the level from before we began using Sp@mX. We think this is an outstanding achievement. At least the FTC and California DoJ got another 1246 spam message examples from us last week. But because we are on a four-week plateau, we will issue our next report when the amount of spam makes a significant change from the average over the past four weeks. [Bill Fox--Disclaimer: HSC is now an advertiser on Macs Only!]
While those in Saturday morning's line at the Fashion Valley Apple Store were mostly looking for an iPod shuffle, there were many Mac mini buyers as well. Apple will be happy to know that every Mac mini buyer in line close to us, all well under the age of 30, intended to buy a Mac mini to replace their Windows PC. We got a few questions of concern from them about the Mac mini's speed and RAM compliment. Most planned to buy the $599 1.42 GHz model--the MHz myth lives on. Of course, we think the Mac mini (either model) is plenty fast for the normal computing jobs that they planned to tackle. We also advised them not worry about the base 256MB RAM. It is likely that they will find that 256MB works just fine based on our test of last week.
Our 1.25GHz Mac mini came in the now famous small box with a gray handle along with a small white plastic power brick and a DVI to VGA video adapter. Also included was a small gray box with a system restore/bundled software/hardware test DVD, a Mac OS 9 install DVD, an iLife '05 DVD, a 105-page user guide and the usual white Apple logo stickers, software proof-of-purchase coupons, software license and one-year limited warranty.
We hooked it up to our ethernet network and 17" display with a DVI to ADC adapter and then plugged it into the power brick. We plugged our D-Link Bluetooth module and USB mouse into USB ports on the display and pushed the power button. The only setup glitch we encountered was that our Bluetooth Apple Wireless Keyboard was not recognized initially so we had to use a wired USB keyboard for setup. After the setup it worked fine.
We had to install iLife '05 and Mac OS 9 from their DVDs. We also had to download and install a number of recent software updates. While we didn't mind all this extra "work" it is probably not the best experience for a switcher. Finally, we installed Apple Remote Desktop Client, M$ Office 2004 and our test suite applications.
So how fast is it? We subjected our 1.25GHz Mac mini to most of our usual speed tests. We compared the results with those from our original 2000-vintage 450MHz Power Mac G4 Cube, stock except for the 704MB of RAM, and our 2004-vintage dual 2.5GHz Power Mac G5--all running Mac OS X 10.3.7. Here are the specifications of the three computers:
Our speed tests consist of several canned benchmark applications and several so-called "real world" tests. They are all easy to do on your own computer--see our Speed FAQ for details. Here are the results:
*Faster = higher scores and lower seconds.
For the most part the Mac mini's performance falls comfortably in between that of the older G4 Cube and the latest Power Mac G5. The hard drive is on the slow side as expected since it is a PowerBook hard drive and the Mac mini's time to shutdown and to export a QuickTime movie in Full Quality DV are longer than expected. Each of the three trials of those two tests were consistent so we have no explanation. The good news is that the graphics results, including those for the 3D game Quake III Arena, are surprisingly better than we expected.
RAM. What about the 256MB of RAM? Curiously, ours came with a PC3200 DDR 400MHz RAM module rather than the slower 333MHz PC2700 DDR RAM which is the Mac mini's specification. Last week we tested whether 256MB RAM was sufficient for most uses with Mac OS X 10.3.7 in an upgraded G4 Cube. Basically, we ran Xbench with no other applications open except it and Activity Monitor and then we re-ran Xbench after opening five RAM-sucking applications: Safari, Apple Mail, iTunes, M$ Word and M$ Excel. Opening the applications resulted in a minor performance hit but increasing RAM to 512MB and 1GB did not ameliorate the performance hit by much at best.
We re-ran the tests with and without apps on our Mac mini. The first table below shows that opening the five additional applications uses up all of the free RAM except for 7MB.
The second table below shows the results without the applications open and with them open. We also included the results from a 1.42 GHz Mac mini posted on this web page.
Like in our upgraded G4 Cube test, opening the five applications to use up almost all of the available free RAM caused a minor performance hit, no greater than 8 per cent and mostly less. We did not have PC2700 DDR RAM modules in 512MB or 1GB sizes to confirm our G4 Cube results on the Mac mini but we are confident that they would. Besides an amelioration of a minor effect would also be minor. In addition, we tried printing a 5-page document (yellow row in the table above) and there was no difference in time to print the document. Our view is that Mac OS X's excellent RAM management capabilities will provide acceptable performance with Mac mini's base 256MB RAM for the uses that most people will make of their computers. The RAM myth should be buried with the MHz myth.
Upgrading. If you are not too faint of heart, the Mac mini's case can be opened with a very thin 1.5" putty knife, Apple's official tool--believe it or not. A QuickTime video clip showing the use of a putty knife to crack open the Mac mini's case is available from Smash's web site. In addition, he posted access to what appears to be an Apple PDF file of the Mac mini service manual that confirms the putty knife is Apple's official opener tool. It also shows that a user can not easily add AirPort Extreme or Bluetooth since the so-called mezzanine board and antennas are not in the Mac mini.
We opened our Mac mini with a 4" putty knife because that appeared to be the width needed to press simultaneously all of the clips on one side. Still, it was not as easy as it looks. We suggest sliding the end of a small wooden dowel in the space between the top case and the ports block to hold the first side up while working on the second side. That way the edges of the aluminum top won't get scarred. We have an extra AirPort Extreme card and had hoped to install it. We confirmed that there is no mezzanine board or antenna inside a base Mac mini. So, if you want AirPort Extreme, be sure to order it CTO from the online Apple Store. It can be installed later by an Apple authorized service tech but it will include the Bluetooth module as well and cost more than $129. An alternative is to use a non-Apple USB Wi-Fi product. More RAM can be added easily after purchase if you open the case. Bluetooth capability can be added inexpensively as an external USB module.
Summary. The Mac mini is an outstanding entry level computer. Even in base form, it certainly performs well enough to do all of the usual tasks done by most people on a computer and then some. It's design is also oustanding from industrial and artistic perspectives. In the "then some" category, our Mac mini sits on top of our large screen TV but that is for another article. [Bill Fox]
We arrived at the Fashion Valley Apple Store at 8:15 a.m PST. While the normal opening time is 10 a.m., we got a tip from a store staffer that they were going to open an hour earlier today when we called earlier in the week to confirm that they would actually have some Mac minis for sale. There was a short line when we arrived, only 8 people waiting and most were there to get an iPod shuffle. Rene Lopez was the first in line. He told Macs Only! that he had arrived at 5:45 a.m. and that the second person had arrived about 6 a.m. Rene was there to get two iPod shuffles, a 512MB model and a 1GB model. While we were talking to him, the line doubled and we could see a lot more people coming down the mall. By the time the store opened at 9 a.m. there were more than 50 people in line, maybe as many as 100 or so.
At a few minutes before 9 a.m. several store staffers came out and went down the line writing orders so merchandise could be organized for quicker checkouts. Apparently they only had a few $99 512MB iPod shuffles. A person just in front of me, about #15 in line, got the last one. He had planned to get a 1GB model but after discussing the iPod shuffle with us, he decided to save $50 and get the smaller model. Like us, he has all of his music on his computer and 5-6 hours of music carried around on an iPod is more than enough before re-docking and loading on different songs. We hope he doesn't regret it later. We were happy that, as #17 in line, a base $499 Mac mini was still available.
At 9 a.m., they let all of us who successfully placed an order inside and the checkout line stretched from the front of the store back to the theater. We had hoped that the Apple Store Genius could install an Apple AirPort Extreme card in our Mac mini but the store was not doing accessory installations on the spot today. We took our Mac mini (with an iLife '05 disc inside) and iWork software home, stopping on the way only at Home Depot for a set of unofficial Mac mini opening tools. [Bill Fox]
Reader Joe Sacco received his iLife '05 order yesterday:
The Cube VRM supports Giga Designs multi-voltage power sharing architecture. It can also be used in Power Mac Cubes with Giga Designs and other manufacturers 7455 based G4 processor upgrades and/or upgraded graphics and hard disc drives. The VRM is included with all Giga Designs Dual processor Cube upgrades and is also sold separately. The VRM is the weakpoint in the G4 Cube so we are glad to see one being offered. It will sell for $99.
The G-celerator Cube 7A series dual processor upgrade uses the latest G4 (7447A) processors available from Freescale (formerly Motorola). Each processor has a 512KB on chip L2 cache running at the full processor speed. The CPU is rated at 1.42GHz but guaranteed to run at 1.6GHz. The dual 1.6 GHz G4 CPU with VRM will sell for $749. [Bill Fox]
We're waiting for DOOM 3. Fortunately for many Mac users, Aspyr announced that G4's will be officially supported in DOOM 3, but the minimum processor speed will still remain the same as the PC--1.5 GHz. DOOM 3 will push CPU and graphics technology to the limits so Mac gamers with G5's will have the best opportunity to experience it at its richest. [Bill Fox]
Many long-time Mac users are now used to using more than 256MB of RAM and the real power users are pushing installed RAM well past 2GB. The speed of processing large image files is nearly directly related to the amount of RAM. But most Mac users from among the 14 million using Mac OS X don't process huge images. All of today's consumer Macs come with 256MB, as do the low end of the PowerBooks and Power Macs, and the top end PowerBooks and Power Macs come with just 512MB.
The base consumer $499 Mac mini and upscale $599 model also come with 256MB. So what is all the grousing about? It is partly because Apple made the Mac mini difficult to get open to upgrade RAM or anything else for that matter. This is a smart move by Apple because the margin on the base Mac mini has to be really thin. People fiddling inside will surely result in more repair returns and help suck the thin profit out of the Mac mini. In addition, it provides an opportunity for resellers to get a bit more out of a sale for those wanting more RAM.
Why do people want more RAM? Well, some are just plain used to it. Then, there are some who see the Mac mini as a cheap alternative to an iMac G5 or Power Mac G5 for work that should be done on an iMac G5 or Power Mac G5. Really? C'mon, give us a break.
The Mac mini is an inexpensive base Mac that runs Mac OS X and it is intended for general low end users, especially Wintel users. Apple has clearly gone through great pains to ensure that it does not compete with an iMac G5 or Power Mac G5. But this does not mean that the Mac mini might not fit some niches of current Mac users. We see several and plan to get a base $499 Mac mini as soon as they are out.
We can't really answer the question of whether we need more RAM or not without actually having a Mac mini in hand. But we can use a Mac that is roughly similar in specs and see how it performs as guidance. So we used our upgraded 1.4GHz G4 Cube as a proxy to try 256MB, 512MB and 1GB of RAM. Here is a chart comparing the two:
The upgraded G4 Cube has a faster hard drive and L3 cache but otherwise the $599 Mac mini has a slight speed advantage.
We used Xbench 1.1.3 to test the speed the G4 Cube with Mac OS X 10.3.7 and 256MB, 512MB and 1GB of RAM. We tested it with no other applications open and with a RAM-sucking set of applications open: Safari, Apple Mail, iTunes, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Someone was able to run Xbench on a $599 Mac mini with 1 GB RAM at Macworld and posted the results. Here are the results as compared with the posted $599 Mac mini results:
We opened enough applications to just use up the available RAM at 256MB. There is only 6MB of free RAM with 256MB of RAM and all applications, including Xbench and Activity monitor. The average user will likely not have all of them open at any given time.
*Average of 3 runs.
First of all, the Xbench scores for the tests without open applications (green columns) are virtually identical among the three installed RAM levels for the Cube. They are also similar to those of the $599 Mac mini, except for the Memory test due to the Mac mini's faster RAM and System Bus. The three tests at 256MB that show the most effect of saturating memory with open applications (comparing the green and red columns) are CPU (-8%), OpenGL Graphics (-6%) and User Interface (-11%), noted in yellow in the first column. These effects are still fairly small and may not be statistically significant.
The question is, are the effects significantly ameliorated by adding more RAM? The CPU and OpenGL effects are slightly ameliorated. For the largest effect, User Interface, the 11% gap is reduced to 6-7%, not worth the cost of adding additional RAM in our opinion.
From these tests, we conclude that it is unlikely that the base Mac mini would need more that 256MMB of RAM for most low-end general computer users. We will see directly when we get our base Mac mini--stay tuned.
We hope that the MacMinute report of a standalone iMovie HD for $10 bears out and that it extends to other components of iLife '05, especially iPhoto5. We mostly use iPhoto 5 and we are sure that is true of many people. However, we'd be really surprised to see the components sold for less than $19-25. [Bill Fox]
It has been 5 weeks since we began a trial of Sp@mX, now up three more updates to v3.2.2, by Hendrickson Software Components (hsc). We bought it for $19.95 with a money-back gurarantee to see if it could significantly reduce our 4000+ weekly spam messgages. We have double filtered our spam but it's not 100% accurate and, therefore, we had to follow a highly time-consuming daily activity. We also occasionally missed and lost an important email.
Sp@mX is not a filtering application. It automatically reports spam to the various server administrators that handled the spam on its way to us. Sp@mX also allows us to send copies to the FTC and the California Dept. of Justice. It relies on server administrators to take action to block our spam based on the reports. We really like Sp@mx's proactive fight-back approach. Here is our initial review of v3.0.2. The developer, Jeff Hendrickson, has continuously improved the product such that now, at v3.2.2, it automatically parses Apple Mail and Eudora Mail files and has a much better Mac OS X user interface.
We provided a progress report at the end of weeks one, two, three and four of our Sp@mX trial. How did we do during week five? Here is a table showing the number of spam messages we received and processed each week:
After a continuous week to week decline in spam through week 3 that resulted in at least a 71 per cent reduction, we saw an increase during week four of 18 per cent and another small increase during week five of 2 percent. We still have over 65 per cent less spam that before we started using Sp@mX.
We occasionally get back automated reponses to Sp@mX reports from server administrators. Here is a table showing the number of abuse reports we received back each week:
The number is up despite our email configuration errors. Are we getting a better class of spam?
We also get Returned Mail error messages in response to Sp@mX reports. Here is a table showing the number of failed delivery responses:
We received 855 delivery failure notifications, a huge number for one week. We received only 54 in total up to last week and only 7 this past weekend.
Our spam load is not yet "near zero" but the huge difference has saved us an enormous amount of time and angst. HSC has a money-back guarantee on its $20 Sp@mX if it does not drive spam to near zero. But we are not going to pack it in yet. We are going to give the latest version another week to see if it can diminish our email further.
Jeff Hedrickson, Sp@mX's developer, wrote that he is continuing to improve it. On his agenda this week are:
[Bill Fox--Disclaimer: HSC is now an advertiser on Macs Only!]
Sonance showed us their newest version of iPort with supporft for iPod photo and with expanded control capability. The iPort (not the serial port made by Griffin Technology for the first iMac) is an in-wall-mounted docking station for the 4G click-wheel iPods, including the iPod photo and iPod mini. It is made from polished ABS plastic and looked modernistic and attractive to us. The iPort provides video output from iPod photo, as well as audio output, to display photos and slide shows on TVs as well as to play music over home entertainment systems. The enhanced remote control allows one to control almost all of the iPod functions with the additional NaviPod receiver. The iPort has a DC power supply that charges an iPod when docked. The iPort sells for $598 and will be available with video output in February.
Corriente Networks demoed their new Wi-Fi network security software, Elektron. It provides RADIUS services to make wireless networks of small businesses more secure. Elektron, thus, allows small businesses to have the same high security as large enterprise businesses with:
Elektron software installs on any Mac on the network to serve as a RADIUS authentication server. It installs easily using the Mac OS X installer. A Setup Assistant walks one through the configuration process which appeared to be very simple and straight forward to us. The AirPort Express or Extreme Base Station is then set for WPA Enterprise security rather than WEP or WPA Personal. When a Mac tries to connect wirelessly, a simple dialog box prompt for a username and password is presented. If it is the first time, the certificate sent by the Elektron RADIUS server must be authenticated by accepting the certificate.
Elektron looked simple enough to us and we look forward to trying it out on our global headquarters AirPort Extreme network. Elektron is available now for $299.99 and runs on and supports both Mac OS X and Windows XP clients. Most RADIUS solutions cost thousabnds of dollars and do not run on Mac OS X. A 30-day demo version is also available for a free trial.
Griffin Technology showed us a host of new electronic accessories and devices: XpressStand, SmartDeck, AirClick, BlueTrip, FireWave, RocketFM, TuneJuice, Dock800 and Lapel Mic. Griffin Technology has been making really cool accessories for the Mac since their iPort serial port for the original iMac--we have a bunch. The XpressStand is a $25 dock with power cord for Apple's AirPort Express. The $25 SmartDeck Intelligent Cassette Adapter, our favorite this year, allows users to control their iPod using the built in controls of their cassette player. AirClick and AirClickUSB are $40 radio frequency remote controllers for the iPod, iPod mini and a Mac. BlueTrip is a $149 wireless transmitter and receiver for broadcasting CD-quality audio from an iPod to a home stereo. FireWave is a $100 FireWire accessory that brings 5.1 Surround Sound to any FireWire-enabled Mac. RocketFM is a $40 wireless solution for broadcasting Mac audio applications to any FM radio. TuneJuice is a $20 battery backup for the iPod and iPod mini that uses a single 9-volt battery to provide up to 8 hours of additional power to any dockable iPod. Dock800 is a $15 FireWire 800 cable (rather than FireWire 400) to attach your iPod to a Mac's FireWire 800 port. Lapel Mic is a $15 multipurpose lapel microphone offering quality stereo audio input for recording interviews, lectures and other events--with an iPod equipped with the Griffin iTalk voice recorder it instantly becomes a mobile recording unit. It is shipping now and the others will ship in the first or second quarter of 2005.
ATI displayed its brand new Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition graphics card that is not shipping just yet. Early reviews of pre-production units show that the X800 XT is a bit faster than the Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra DDL graphics card for 3D gaming. The Nvidia card is an Apple OEM card made expressly for Apple's new 30" Cinema Display. It can run two of the 30" displays while the ATI card can run just one plus any other monitor. As we have noted before, the X800 is a "regular" size graphics card while the Nvidia is huge, taking up the full length of the AGP/PCI slot bay in a Power Mac G5. The X800 only takes up the AGP slot while the Nvidia also cover the adjacent PCI slot. As such, the ATI X800 exhausts heat back forward into the Power Mac while the Nvidia pushes the heated air towards a vent out the back. We used the ATI Radeon X800 XT to play Halo and the speed and visual experience is just outstanding. The reviews show that the Radeon X800 handles heavy FSAA and Anisotropic filtering much faster than the Nvidia card. The ATI representative told Macs Only! that their Radeon X800 XT Mac Edition would go out to their distribution channel this coming week. We look forward to getting our hands on a production unit of this $499 gem.
The Gaming Area was at the far west end of the Moscone Center's South Hall. Four game publisher's had booths: Feral Interactive, Freeverse, Aspyr and MacSoft. There were also a few smaller game manufacturers sprinkled among the Power Macs set up for demoing. The game competition area consisted of 16 Power Mac G5s with 30" Apple Cinema Displays. The game demonstration area consisted of 24 Power Mac G5s with 20" Apple Cinema Displays and 12 20" iMac G5s, 36 computers in all for demoing. Surprisingly, during our short visits to the area, one could readily get to a Power Mac or iMac to try out a game. But, unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to do so for the many games on display. The games set up for display on the Power Mac G5s are: Star Wars KOTOR, MTX Mototrax, Command and Conquer Generals, Command and Conquer Generals Xero Hour, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell, True Crime Streets of LA, Homeworld 2, Call of Duty United Offensive, ShineBug, GameHouse Games, Gooball, Robin Hood, Railroad Tycoon 3, Macintosh Board Game Trio: Monopoly, Scrabble & Risk 2, Atari Arcade Classics: Pong, Centipede & Breakout, Rise of Nations Gold Edition, Ford Racing 2, Redline Racing, Disney Presents Pixar Film's The Incredibles, X-Plane FA/18: OIF, World of Warcraft (2 Power Mac stations), Myst iV: Revolution and Dark Horizons: Lore. Those set up on the iMac G5s are: I Spy Spook Mansion: I Spy Fantasy, SpongeBob SquarePants Rockin' Rabbit Learning System, Kid Pix Deluxe 3X: ClueFinder, Dr. Seuss ABC Thinkin' Things, Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues, Disney Presents Pixar Film's The Incredibles: When Danger Calls, Preschool/Kindergarten, Jump Start, Mia's Adventure Series Didi and Ditto, Learn to Play Chess 2, Airburst Extreme and Chessmaster 9000.
That wraps up our reports from the Macworld Expo 2005 show floor. There was so much to see and we wish we had enough time to spend some with each of the 280 (IDG's number) vendors. Maybe next year.... [Bill Fox]
We don't think anyone would disagree with the first two items--we certainly don't. We also give very high marks to the ATI Radeon X800, Griffin SmartDeck, Elektron and MacPlay's Close Combat: First to Fight as the best, respectively, graphics card, iPod accessory, Wi-Fi software and new 3D game--although MacPlay's game is not out yet, but neither is the Mac mini. If Doom 3 had been there, we probably would have picked it based on pre-release reviews alone. We would also highlight Micromat's DiskStudio as a software utility, LANDesk as network software, SMART Board as the best educational technology, NewSoft's Presto! BizCard Reader 5 as a business productivity solution (hardware and software combined), Apple's Pages as a productivity application and PocketMac for Blackbird 3.0 for as PDA software. [Bill Fox]
In yesterday's report we provided our impressions on the size and attendance of Macworld 2005 and, wouldn't you know it, IDG subsequently issued a press release on the topic. While the final, audited attendance numbers will not be out for about two months, IDG expects attendance to be higher than the 32,409 that attended Macworld SF 2004. They also noted that the number of vendors renting space was up from 260 to 280 and that they rented more square footage in total than last year despite being housed in just the South Hall this year.
We should have noted that this year's reporter last attended Macworld SF 2003 so the impressions posted yesterday were relative to 2003 and earlier, not 2004. Brian Nakamoto, who has also attended previous Macworld SF shows, reported for us on Macworld SF 2004. He noted that Macworld SF 2004 was a smaller show than previous ones. Still, we sure appreciated the shorter walk to visit all of the show floor vendors as did many attendees surveyed by IDG. The vendors also liked the increased traffic brought by situating all exhibits in the South Hall. Macworld 2005 is an excellent, exciting show regardless of its size relative to prior years.
Now on to the show floor for our second and penultimate report....
LANDesk demoed its Management Suite 8 for us. Management Suite 8 appears to be an IT Department's dream-come-true software for checking on, updating and controlling client computers on a company network. The server core of Management Suite 8 runs only on Microsoft Windows Server 2000 and 2003 but it works with Mac clients as well as Windows, Unix and Linux clients. An application is installed on each client, including Macs, and it maintains its own inventory of software on the client computer, not relying on System Profiler or any other system component for security reasons. The server side can ask for a report at any given time, install updates centrally and keep selected software from running on any client computer...and more. LANDesk has 8-9 years experince on the Mac, largely in the LDAP server area, according to the company representative. If there is a significant customer move to Unix or Mac OS X Server, LANDesk plans to develop the server core to run on those platforms but for now it remains a Windows 200/2003 product. The company also makes Security Suite 8 and Patch Manager 8.
NewSoft demoed its new Presto! BizCard Reader 5 and software and its new Presto! PhotoDisc software. BizCard Reader 5 is a $129 USB business card reader and database manager. It draws its power from the USB port so no AC/DC wallwort is needed. We placed a business card in the reader and it zipped through quickly. BizCard Reader produced an image of the card and entered the data from it into a database. With one click, the data was also added to the Mac OS X Address Book. It can also easily sync with PDAs, Entourage, Now Contact and FileMaker Pro. Bizcard Reader has gone through 5 version cycles on Windows and is now coming to the Mac. The final product should be out in late February. We were quite impressed with the Presto! Bizcard Reader 5 and look forward to its availability for the Mac.
PhotoDisc is very much like iPhoto and iDVD and but it works with internal and external DVD burners. With PhotoDisc you can make slide shows from images and video clips, add music from iTunes, text or record narration and then burn them as DVDs, SV CDs and VCDs. It has templates, transitions and does MPEG2 as well. PhotoDisc supports a broad range of standard media formats including: CD-R/RW, DVD-/+R, DVD-/+RW, and the new double layer DVD+R format. Presto! PhotoDisc worked very simply and intuitively. It will cost $49.95 and be out for the Mac in late January to early February.
Micromat demoed its new DiskStudio, an extremely simple utility application for non-destructively creating additional partitions on a hard drive. It does this by formatting the unused space on a hard drive without disturbing the existing data. DiskStudio can also delete partitions previously created by it, erase and reformat existing partitions in a number of standard formats and completely erase and repartition an entire hard disk. The uses among many are to install a new copy of Mac OS X, but keep the original copy intact, install a completely different operating system, such as Mac OS 9, on a new partition, create a partition to hold special projects, such as audio or video files, create a partition to hold scratch space for programs such as Adobe Photoshop, etc. DiskStudio will cost $50 (show pre-order special of $35) and will be available in February.
Sonnet Technology had all of its new CPU upgrades available at show special prices. We were especially interested in the new Encore ST 1.7GHz G4 CPU upgrade for the G4 Cube. They had them in stock for $460.83 at the show. The kit includes a quiet fan and requires a firmware upgrade using Mac OS 9.2 because it uses the Freescale (formerly Motorola) 7447A G4 CPU.
We will have a lot more in the final report tomorrow. [Bill Fox]
The eM2 fits the Mac mini like a glove, does not add significant bulk to the slender computer, and can easily fit inside any of our backpacks, messenger bags, briefcases and sling bags. In production now and available for pre-order with a ship date of mid-February 2005, the eM2 will be delivered just in time to protect your new Mac mini. The eM2 retails for $40.00.
We think Tom Bihn cases are really tops. We have an Empire Builder bag and Braincell case in which we tote our 17" PowerBook G4. In 16 months they have logged tens of thousands of miles across the country and throughout the world and show no signs of wear or tear. Here is our 2003 review. [Bill Fox]
The Crimson article stated that Mr. Ciarelli claims to have used nothing more than normal information gathering practices for the journalism profession and professed to not have, and can not afford, an attorney to defend him in California where the suit was filed. The Crimson also wrote that a case management conference is slated for May 3rd. [Bill Fox]
We received an overwhelming number of press releases and invitations to demos, more so than any other Macworld that we have attended. This shows that Macdom is alive and healthy but made us use triage to decide on whom to visit and report on. Unfortunately, due to other commitments we only had two days to see things this year rather than three or four.
To our surprise, the Macworld Expo show floor is pretty much confined to San Francisco's Moscone Conference Center's South building for 2005. In previous years, it filled up much of both the North and South buildings. It doen't seem like there are fewer vendors, over 230 are listed in the show guide. There are just much fewer mega and very large booths. The ubiquitous regular-size booths seem to have shrunk some and the stand-up booth area is terribly crowded together. There are no open areas to congregate and relax on the show floor this year.
The crowds have been good for the first two days, especially Tuesday when the keynote was given. The show floor is certainly very crowded but not as crowded as one might expect from the degree of floor space and aisle space compression. This could be a total misimpression on our part or maybe there's a huge increase in those attending conferences and special events. We'll have to wait and see what IDG says officially about attendance but even if smaller, in our view it is certainly a success for Apple Computer and its Mac fans.
Now on to what we saw and occasionally operated....
The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus was parked inside at the east end of the hall. Every so often a great band, starting with the Spin Doctors, would strike up live and could be heard over the din of people talking for almost half of the hall. We already reported on the Lennon Bus. Right next to it taking up much of the remaining space of aisles 300 and 400 was a large guitar accessories sales booth, a new item spawned by Apple's increasing focus on and success in the digital music world. In fact there were many more music item vendors than in the past which seemed to mostly consist of speaker and non-music digital audio manufacturers. We offer this as a general comment since we are not in anyway knowledgeable about the music business and didn't frequent any of the music booths this year.
There were also a few cars on the show floor. Mercedes Benz had two that were there ostensibly to show off their new iPod adapters but, hey, they are MBs. One of them was the terrific new black SLK350. We forgot to look for the iPod adapter when we finally got to the car. The MB person was saying something about it but we were not hearing them--sorry. More cars will join BMW this year in having built in iPod adapters. Clarion, the radio manufacturer, had a car to demo its product as did MacMice, the Mac accessory reseller.
Okay, let's get serious now....
Intuit gave us a hands-on demo of their new QuickBooks: Pro 2005 for Mac that came out just last November. We are a Quicken 2004 user for our business but were really impressed with QuickBooks as a real business software package. Intuit believes that the primary users of QuickBooks are small businesses in the 1-6 person range and that includes us.
QuickBooks appears to be very easy to set up and the invoicing function is terrific. It's data can be output in QuickBooks for Windows format so one can send it to an accountant that's not Mac literate. It also imports the Windows format. There is a new cost by job report that allows one to follow up on all reimbursable costs not yet billed to a given job or client. Also new is the ability to export a future check cutting reminder to iCal. One can backup to disk, a .Mac iDisk or to a Windows file. Intuit maintains a pro advisor network of accountants trained in QuickBooks with a locater on QuickBooks.com.
The only con that we saw with QuickBooks is that it can not interact online with your bank accounts. But, I was told that Intuit is working on that feature. Of course, Quicken does interact with banks and QuickBooks imports Quicken data so that may be an interim workaround to stay in the Intuit environment.
QuickBooks: Pro 2005 for Mac is $299, $199 upgrade.
Small Tree Communications provides high performance networking solutions like InfiniBand used in the now famous Virginia Tech cluster supercomputer constructed from 1,100 Power Mac G5 (now Xserve G5) computers. More exactly, Small Tree provides Mac OS X InfiniBand software with high performance and low latency in Infiniband hardware its president, Corky Seeber, told us. He also told us that what's new is that Small Tree has partnered with InfiniCom Systems to deliver the industry's first complete suite of InfiniBand products to the Mac market. Small Tree also announced the first ever multiport fiber optic ethernet adapters for the Mac as part of their strategy to bring the world's top performance to the Mac. We wish Small Tree well in their quest.
Adobe invited us to attend an NDA-covered presentation on potential future products. We are a heavy user of several Adobe products so we attended the very interesting 2-hour session. We got really hyped over what we saw and heard but, unfortunately, we can't say more than that at this time due to the NDA. Don't you just hate that as much as we do? Stay tuned...er, can we write that? Hmm, let's see....
Information Appliance Associates, a "neighbor" of Macs Only! since we moved to San Diego, showed us their PocketMac for Blackberry 3.0 software. It syncs data on your Mac running Mac OS X 10.3.x with most Blackberry devices via serial or USB, The data it syncs are contacts, calendar, tasks and notes from Entourage, Address Book, Now Contact, DayLite, iCal, Now-Up-To-Date and Stickies. Tim Goggin demoed it for us and PocketMac is easy to set up and use and quick to work. If you are a Mac user and have a Blackberry, you will want to look into PocketMac for only $29.95. There's a Macworld special of $10 off until January 17 using coupon code MW05.
SMART Technologies Inc. showed us several superb technologies for teaching and brainstorming ideas consisting of hardware and software. Michelle Maingat demoed them for us. The hardware is the SMART Board overlay for flat panel displays, the rear projection SMART Board and the Sympodium. The first enables a large flat panel display as a touch screen that controls your computer, allows writing in digital ink and saves work in a number of formats. Coupled with their SMART Ideas software, the SMART Board makes a great electronic brainstorming device. The rear projection SMART Board is also a touch screen that controls your Mac but it is designed for educators. It is kind of a digital chalkboard but much more with SMART's applications software. Finally, the Sympodium ID250 is an interactive pen display that controls your Mac. It can be hooked up to a projector to display the action and results on a large screen. This excellent technology does not come cheap. The Sympodium runs some $2,250, the flat-panel SMART Board is about $4,000 for a 50" overlay and the rear projection SMART Board runs to $12,000.
IOGear had several new devices on display. The cool 3.5" Tri-Select ION Drive allows anyone to set up three sets of backups (i.e. different sets of files) and has three buttons to start any of the three. The Tri-Select ION comes with FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 ports as a stand alone enclosure or with drives of 160GB to 500GB capacity. The 200GB model sells for a reasonable $239. IOGear also had two DVI KVM boxes, one with two DVI ports for two computers to share one monitor and one with four DVI ports for four computers. The DVI KVM boxes will come out shortly with the 2-port one selling for around $300.
That's it for our first report. Much remains and we will file our second report tomorrow. [Bill Fox]
Apple shipped an incredible 1,046,000 Macs and 4,580,000 iPods from October 1 through December 31, 2004, a 26 per cent increase in Macs and a 525 per cent increase in iPods over the first quarter of the previous year. Here are the results by Mac category:
The "consumer" Mac sales improved substantially, especially the iMac G5/eMac line. During the keynote address, Steve jobs stated that during the first quarter of FY2005 the iMac G5 became the best selling Mac in the company's history. The sales of "professional" Macs declined as their power and features essentially stagnated during the last year.
The sales for all regions were up and all but Japan were up significantly in excesss of 20 per cent. Apple Store retail sales were up to $561 million as compared with $273 million in the same quarter a year ago, a 105 per cent improvement.
Apple's stock price rose to a near company high of $74 per share in after hours trading, according to this Reuters article, [Dana Baggett] beating last Friday's after hours high of $70.70 and Wednesday's close of $65.46.
The conference call following the release of the financial report was unusual in that nothing else of much substance was mentioned according to summary reports on several web sites including MacNN. [Bill Fox]
Apple did not get as carried away with the Mac Mini and the flash memory iPod Shuffle as we had suggested they might yesterday morning. In fact, Apple made a clear break from past thinking by producing two new devices that are aimed right at the heart of commodity land rather than at its upper crust. We think this is truly significant and it obviously caught us utterly but pleasantly by surprise (see yesterday's pre-keynote commentary). We hope this bold move pans out. Because of Apple's design genius, we expect that it will.
Let's look at them one by one (images courtesy of Apple).
The Mac Mini is our clear favorite. It looks absolutely terrific in person. The Mac Mini is 6.5x6.5x2 inches with rounded vertical corners and weighs less than 3 pounds. It has a white plastic top and backside with ports and a brushed aluminum edge, the latter broken is only in the front by the narrow slit for inserting a CD or DVD disk and a tiny LED at lower right--very, very nice. The Mac Mini has a small white power brick that is similar to but smaller than those that come with Apple's latest aluminum monitors.
The ports in the back are all industry standard. Across the botom at right are the power, 10/100 ethernet, 56K modem, DVI graphics, two USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and sound out (headphone) ports. A DVI to VGA adapter for older or cheaper monitors is included. Across the top are the power button, heat exhaust grill and Kensington lock slot. No mouse, keyboard or monitor is included.
The base internals are a 1.25GHz G4 CPU with 512K on-chip L2 cache and a 167MHz bus, 40GB Ultra ATA hard drive, 256MB PC2700 DDR SRAM, ATI Radeon 9200 graphics, combo optical drive, Bluetooth slot, AirPort Express slot and a speaker.
The included software is: Mac OS X 10.3, Mail, iChat AV, Safari, Sherlock, Address Book, QuickTime, iSync, iCal, iLife ‘05 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and GarageBand), AppleWorks, Quicken 2005 for Mac, Nanosaur 2, Marble Blast Gold and Apple Hardware Test.
All of the above costs a really neat $499.
The optional build-to-order internals are a 1.42GHz G4 CPU ($100 includes 80GB drive also), 80GB hard drive alone ($50), up to 1GB RAM ($75 for 512MB and a whopping $425 for 1GB), SuperDrive ($100), Bluetooth module ($50) and AirPort Express card ($79). There is also AppleCare at $149, very high for a $499 item.
Like options on a new car or house, they can cause the total price to really skyrocket. The Mac Mini is not user serviceable according to its Apple web page and several Apple employees at Macworld. That doesn't mean that you can't buy cheaper parts and install them yourself, it just means that doing so will void your warranty. And, like an iPod, the Mac Mini is relatively difficult to open, requiring a special tool. An Apple Store Genius or Apple Authorized reseller or repair center may be able to install cheaper parts, especially RAM (1GB at $425 is ridiculous), without voiding the warranty. An external USB Bluetooth module can be obtained for far less than $50 but it uses one precious USB port. But if anyone needs to upgrade the base Mac Mini's features in any significant way, it probably makes a lot of sense to look closely at a $799 eMac, a $999 iBook or a $1299 iMac.
Remember that the Mac Mini is marketed for the user of a cheap PC as a replacement for the ugly, low quality, poor performing, virus/spyware clogged CPU box or as an easy to use and safer adjunct for email, iPod/iTunes music and even photos. The base $499 model is right down their alley.
We think the base Mac Mini will make a great PC replacement. With the included applications, the base Mac Mini seems to work every bit as well as our 1.5GHz 17" PowerBook G4 according to our subjective hands-on testing at Apple's Macworld Expo booth. It wasn't very warm either, certainly not like our PowerbBook gets. We could feel a slight discharge of warm air out the back grill and, with the din of the show floor, we couldn't hear a sound coming from it unless we held the grill up to our ear. It really needs to be tested in a reasonably quiet place but we think it will be pretty darn quiet.
As for a Mac user, the base Mac Mini makes a great replacement for an older Mac, especially one that has a USB keyboard and mouse. A lot of iMacs and Power Mac G3s and early Power Mac G4s fall into this category. An older Power Mac would just need a USB keyboard and mouse in addition to the base Mac Mini and those can be inexpensive or even found for free. We don't see much of a need for anyone to hold onto an old Mac any longer.
The Mac Mini also makes a great home or office digital hub or server as an addition to other Macs with just a few additional parts like a $19 DVI to TV video adapter, a $50 Bluetooth module, a $79 AirPort Express card, a $59 Apple wireless keyboard and a $59 Apple wireless mouse. One could even skimp a bit and use a cheaper USB external Bluetooth module and non-Apple wireless keyboard and mouse.
The iPod Shuffle is designed to be marketed very similarly to the Mac Mini, i.e. right at the heart of the flash digital music market, not at its upper crust like the iPod Mini as Steve Jobs explained in this year's keynote and when they were announced last year. Although we haven't quite seen it that way, the market data shown before and after the iPod Mini release appear to support Steve Jobs' contention.
While maybe a "commodity" product starting at $99, the iPod Shuffle exhibits the genius in Apple's engineers and designers. We looked them over at Apple's booth. They are a little larger (3.3x0.98") than a regular pack of gum but much thinner (0.33") and lighter (0.78oz). There is no screen since it's business is to play a song playlist, either in straight through or in shuffle mode. Well, it can also serve as a USB thumb drive if not filled with songs.
The small wheel-like control mechanism on the front is similar to the original iPod's except, of course, there is no scroll wheel. The center button is for play and pause with the visual aid of an LED, the left and right are for backup and advance and the top and bottom are for increase and decrease volume. There's a slider on the back that is the on-off control plus it selects straight play or shuffle modes. The back also has a battery test button and LED that shows green with a full charge and turns to yellow and red as the battery runs down.
The iPod shuffle has a claimed 12-hour battery and is charged by plugging it into a computer's USB 2.0 port after removing its cap connected to a lanyard.
There are two models, the 512MB model that will hold about 120 songs for $99 and the 1GB model that will hold about 240 songs. The flash memory card is not removeable in either model.
There are also $29 Apple accessories: a sport case, an AC adapter, a dock, an armband and a battery extender. Only the latter was not available for inspection at Apple's booth. Then there's AppleCare for $59, very high for a $99 item.
The sound they produce seemed to be of equal quality to the iPod Mini and iPod, at least through the same ear buds and with the din of the show floor. One needs to try one in a quiet place to really see if the quality is the same.
We stopped by the San Francisco Apple Store on the way back to our hotel to get one and compare it with our iPod Mini since the iPod Shufffle is shipping and Steve Jobs noted that he "heard" they we available "up the street" during his keynote address. The staff said they had a good supply of only the $99 512MB model but a huge line formed right after the keynote address and they were sold out by the afternoon. Hundreds, maybe thousands, were sold but no one at the store would confirm even a ballpark a number. We'll try again today to see if they have a new supply.
The iPod Shuffle may replace our iPod Mini. Even though we have nearly 300 songs, our main playlist is only 85 songs, enough for a cross country flight. The iPod Shuffle is so small and light, we really can take it virtually everywhere.
Starting at $99, we think Apple will easily significantly increase its already fantastic growth rate of iPod sales.
We briefly used the software in iWork '05 (Keynote 2.0 and Pages 1.0) on a 14" iBook G4 and iLife '05 (iTunes 4.7.1, iPhoto 5.0, iMovie HD 5.0, iDVD 5.0 and GarageBand 2.0) on a 14" iBook G4 and a base Mac Mini. The only really new software is iWork's Pages 1.0. Most of the rest have significant upgrades. iTunes was the current v4.7.1, updated yesterday for the iPod Shuffle features.
Pages appears to be a killer word processor in the way that Keynote is a killer presentation application but more so. Actually, Pages is a combination of a simple but feature rich counterpart to Microsoft Word and a simple but feature rich counterpart to layout applications like Quark Express or PageMaker or InDesign.
There are over 40 templates ranging in complexity from a simple thank you card, to a letter (personal or business) to a quiz to a term paper to a multi-page brochure to a white paper report to a complete research paper, all with images, charts, column layouts etc. While it lacks the complex flexibility of Word, Quark, PageMaker or InDesign, Pages has all the salient features to produce the full range of professional paper documents. It imports AppleWorks documents and imports and exports Word documents.
We used Pages for quite some time despite people urging us to hurry up. The templates are masterfully done and easy to use. They are no blank spaces with arcane commands to master to fill in. They are basically a done (but dummy) product that is edited by the user in a simple and intuitive way.
IWork with Pages and Keynote 2.0 is a terrific start at a new and incredible productivity suite. As of yet, there is no spreadsheet application. FileMaker Pro is a database application that could easily be adapted to the productivity suite as a Filemaker Express. iWork is officially called iWork '05 so we expect that it will get updated and augmented regularly as has the iLife suite of applications.
Check here for details on the significant iLife '05 application upgrades.
There were no further speed bumps of the professional computer lines and, yes, there was no PowerBook G5 that we all crave. Those will come in due time as advances in manufacturing technology permits over the succeeding months. But when taken altogether, Macworld 2005 is a huge step forward for Apple with terrific new products and application upgrades in the consumer arena. It is one of the best Macworlds for new and improved Apple products that we have attended over the years. [Bill Fox]
iTunes 4.7.1 also delivers the following security enhancement:
Since the new iPod Shuffle was available as of yesterday, this iTunes update is essential. [Bill Fox]
11:05a--John Mayer, guitarist, came on stage and played to end of keynote.
iTunes on Motorola cell phones this Spring.
10:37a--Mac Mini available January 22.
10:32a--iWork is a successor to AppleWorks. Built from ground up to work with Mac OS X. $79, Jan. 22 out.
10:25a--More iLife '05
10:18a--More iLife '05
10:00a--iLife '05 with almost every app upgraded.
2005 is year of high definition video. Introduced Final Cut Express HD. Integrates iMove and Motion. $299, $99 upgrade from Final Cut Express, out in February.
9:41a--More Tiger Features:
Mac OS X 10.4 is due out in first half of year, nothing new. Over 200 new features.
Mac OS X Panther successful, over 14 million Mac OS X users.
New G5 iMac getting great reviews. Most popular Mac we made during the last quarter.
Now 101 Apple Stores with a million visitors a month. Will be opening more stores in England after the new one in London is the second grossing Apple Store in the world.
9:11a--Steve Jobs takes the stage. First Macworld with HD video projection. He proceeded with an update.
8:45a--We arrived at 8a and we were directed to the "media room" with large screen TVs. Now we see why there is no live webcast. The much of the media and other overflow will be watching the keynote on large screen TV. At least there is a good Wi-Fi connection. The keynote will be webcast tonight at 6p PST.
We think a super-mini iPod with flash memory instead of a micro hard drive has a good chance of being true because of the success of the iPod Mini, the lower price of 1GB flash RAM chips and the chance for Apple to grab a huge share of the high end of the flash player market segment simply by extending of its design and iTunes Music Store into that segment. If so, we think it would not be a cheap iPod but probably have a relatively premium price.
As background, we are not a typical iPod user because we are a Mac user. We are also atypical, we think, because we have no more than 300 digital songs either ripped from our CDs or from a paid or free download from the iTunes Music Store. We were not a digital music fan until the original 5GB iPod came out. We could also use it as a bootable external hard drive and, besides, it was made by Apple. We were hooked. We later replaced it with a 10GB model and then with an overkill 30GB model. The latter was a smoother/lighter design but we didn't like its touch-sensitive control buttons as much as the original's controls and bootability became an issue with Mac OS X 10.2.x. Then the Mini arrived. We instantly knew it was perfect and bought a silver one on Apple's release day. It holds all of our songs and all of our critical data plus it is small and light and the design of the controls is perfect. As we use it, there is even room to spare on its drive.
If Apple were to release an even smaller-than-mini iPod with removeable 1GB flash memory cards, a similar design and the same controls we would jump at it in a New York minute. It would hold all of our principal songs and we would store our data on a second card. So we are definitely biased toward wanting to see Apple produce one. If Apple does, we would expect the iPod Mini to go slightly upscale at the same $249 price point and Apple to release the flash iPod in a range of $179-199. Too high you say? That's what the pundits said about the iPod Mini's price of $249--they were dead wrong.
We are not in the audio business so we have no idea why Apple needs to provide a so-called breakout box for hooking up musical instruments to a computer. We haven't even really used GarageBand yet but we know that breakout boxes exist. Would Apple's be aimed at existing professionals or budding professionals? We do know that people in the audio business are a major segment of professionals that use Macs and maybe they really need one that is easy to use with Apple's software and PowerBooks. We were impressed with audio via PowerBooks during our tour of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus (see below). There is also the lawsuit against certain Mac web sites for revealing information about a possible Apple breakout box so maybe this one is true as well. If it is, we look forward to seeing what Apple has produced.
Finally, there is the so-called $500 "headless iMac." We already commented when the rumor broke (once again) that it seemed more reasonable to us than in the past and that we would definitely like to see one. It seemed reasonable because if Apple tied it to the iPod as an extension of the iPod, that Windows users who have bought iPods (the large majority of iPod owners) might just switch or at least become bi-OS users. We also commented that Apple should "think different" about the server paradigm for the home market and come up with a consumer Mac server that was engineered for digital home things. Then, Apple sued another web site over the "headless iMac" rumor, putting a greater air of possibility out there. Finally, HP released a new digital media device at the International Consumer Electronics Show last week. The latter got us thinking again about the "headless iMac" because of the Apple-HP partnership on iPods. So we think (and we are positively biased, of course) there is a good chance that if the"headless iMac" rumor is true, then rather than a computer it may well be an intelligent digital media device that runs on Mac OS X and handles internet, digital audio, digital video and digital TV, even HDTV. For $500...?!?...well...uh...we'll see in a few hours.
Steve Jobs' keynote address from 9-11am PST will not be webcast in real time this year according to this MacCentral article. We will try to post brief notes as it happens and we will definitely post a summary from the Macworld press room right afterwards so tune in again later today for the real poop.
If Apple produces any or none of these rumored items, it will be a great Macworld Expo. Surely Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4) has more completed features by now that will be shown and there are zillions of press releases about many new and exciting products. [Bill Fox]
The Lennon Bus is set up in a corner of the exhibit hall and bands will play there during the day, the first up being the Spin Doctors. A new USB vitual guitar, i.e. it produces sound through software on a PowerBook from its USB connection, the iGuitar was demonstrated along with Roland virtual "drums". The virtual drums were also hooked up via USB to a PowerBook and both PowerBooks played back through large loud speakers. The latentcy, according to Patrick Cummings of Brian Moore Guitars, is down to 0.6 milliseconds as opposed to 3 milliseconds in a traditional midi-instrument. [Bill Fox]
Four weeks ago we began a trial of Sp@mX, now at v3.1.9, by Hendrickson Software Components (hsc). We bought it for $19.95 with a monry-back gurarantee to see if it could significantly reduce our 4000+ weekly spam messgages. We have double filtered our spam but it's not 100% accurate and, therefore, we had to follow a highly time-consuming daily activity. We also occasionally missed and lost an important email.
Sp@mX is not a filtering application. It automatically reports spam to the various server administrators that handled the spam on its way to us. Sp@mX also allows us to send copies to the FTC and the California Dept. of Justice. It relies on server administrators to take action to block our spam based on the reports. We really like Sp@mx's proactive fight-back approach. Here is our initial review of v3.0.2. The developer, Jeff Hendrickson, has continuously improved the product such that now, at v3.1.9, it automatically parses Apple Mail and Eudora Mail files and has a much better Mac OS X user interface.
We provided a progress report at the end of week one of our Sp@mX trial, a second report at the end of week two and a third report at the end of week three. How did we do during week four? Here is a table showing the number of spam messages we received and processed each week:
After a continuous week to week decline in spam that resulted in at least a 71 per cent reduction, we saw an increase during week four of 18 per cent. However, the holidays probably played some role in the pattern and our guess is that there was a post-holiday surge by spammers during week four.
We get back reponses to Sp@mX reports of our spam from server administrators. Here is a table showing the number of abuse reports we received back each week:
The pattern appears to confirm an effect of the holidays, although server responses are thought to be automatic. The percentage rate of responses, i.e. responses per spam message, has improved from 7.6 to 15.8 per cent in four weeks, a doubling. The rate during the holidays, week three, was significantly lower than week two or week four, with week four being the highest.
We also get Returned Mail error messages in response to Sp@mX reports. Here is a table showing the number of failed delivery responses:
Like the abuse reports, there was a dip during the holidays, i.e. week three. The number for week four has nearly doubled the reports of weeks one and two. This may, at least in part, be due to improvements made in Sp@mX during week four that result in more comprehensive spam reporting.
As we stated in our review, our spam problem is not typical of an average user. We have three primary business email addresses that at one time were all posted openly, unprotected, on our web site They were obviously harvested by spambots and are probably on every spammer list traded or sold daily. Despite the modest retrenchment during week four of our use of Sp@mX, we are still very happy that our spam messages have declined from over 600 per day to under 200 per day.
Our spam load is not yet "near zero" but the huge difference has saved us an enormous amount of time and angst. In addition, we have configured Sp@mX for just our one main business address, bill(at)macsonly(dot)com. If it gets to under 100 without further effort beyond using Sp@mX, we will be completely satisfied. Then, we will assess whether we should attack the two contributing email addresses directly.
We also use six other email addresses that we have never posted to the internet and that collectively draw less than 100 spam per week, still a nuisance to be addressed eventually. We get no spam at all from our .Mac or Earthlink or non-business Macsonly addresses--absolutely none--and we do use them. Curiously, the highest spam producer of the six comes from our email address assigned to us by our cable internet company, one that we have never even used. Obviously, some @#$%^&*! at Cox Communications is selling their subscriber list to spammers or Cox was hacked for them. Our Cox address is too unusual for the volume of spam we get with it to be the result of random selection by spammers.
HSC has a money-back guarantee on its $20 Sp@mX if it does not drive spam to near zero. So there appears to be nothing to lose in trying it out on an unacceptable spam problem. If everyone reported their spam to mail server administrators, the FTC and state agencies, perhaps the appreciation for its sheer volume and its cost would sink in and the problem would be seriously addressed. [Bill Fox--Disclaimer: HSC started this week as an advertiser on Macs Only!]
Here are the details of some of the main version enhancements:
Sp@mX v3.1.1 is somewhat slower than previous versions. The developer, Jeff Hendrickson, explains:
DiskStudio sounds like another great Mac app and we look forward to seeing it in action next week at Macworld 2005. We have used Micromat's utilities from the free TechTool through TechTool Pro 4.x. Over the years, we have found Micromat to be one of the best Mac application developers. [Bill Fox]
The three hits he mentioned are the Apple II, Macintosh and iPod. [Dana Baggett]
According to ATI's specs, the X800 has 256MB of GDDR3 RAM, dual 400 MHz DACs, 6 parallel vertex processing engines and 16 parallel pixel pipelines, all similar to the NV6800 cards. The major differences are that the X800 has one dual DVI port and one Apple ADC port while the NV6800 has two dual DVI ports and can therefore drive two 30" Cinema Displays simultaneously. The ATI X800 is much smaller and thinner, using only the 8x AGP slot, while the NV6800's use two slots, the AGP slot and cover a PCIX slot as well. We have reviewed the NV6800 Ultra in our dual 2.5GHz Power Mac G5 driving a 30" Cinema Display.
Rob-ART Morgan's Bare Feats yesterday posted a comparo using Unreal Tournament 2004, Halo, Quake III Arena and Motion that shows the ATI X800 to be faster at a certain resolution than the NV6800 Ultra in the 3D games, especially Halo with 4X FSAA enabled, but slower in Motion. Bare Feats also has a chart that says that the X800 has 475MHz core (or engine) clock speed vs 400MHz for the NV6800 Ultra and that may account for some of the difference.
The ATI X800 sells for $499 while the NV6800 Ultra sells for $599 and the NV6800 GT sells for $499. If you do not have two 30" Cinema Displays, have an older Cinema Display with an ADC connector or mainly play 3D games, the ATI X800 appears to be the better value. We plan to run our own tests in the near future. [Bill Fox]
The Choice Awards ceremony will be held at the Game Developers Conference on Wednesday, March 9th at the Moscone West Convention Center. All registered GDC attendees are welcome. [Bill Fox]
Read more details on this Apple web page for education. [Dana Baggett]
Apple's Xsan is a high performance, enterprise class Storage Area Network (SAN) file system. It is priced at the industry’s most aggressive price point of $999 per client and per server. Xsan combines breakthrough performance with Apple’s legendary ease of use for customers who require scalable, high-speed access to centralized shared data for storage consolidation and workflow in video post production, data center, broadcast and high performance computing environments.
The new prices for Apple's aluminum flat-panel Cinema Displays are $999 for the 20", $1,799 for the 23" and $2,999 for the 30" models. [Bill Fox]
We have looked at numerous Apple online seminars and they are all very well done. [Bill Fox]
We certainly agree. [Dana Baggett]
Three weeks ago we began a trial of Sp@mX, now at v3.0.7 by hsc. It's a $20 application that automatically, more or less, reports spam to the server admins that handled the spam on the way with copies to the FTC and the California Dept. of Justice. It relies on server admins to take action to block the spam based on the reports. Here is our review.
We provided a progress report at the end of week one of our use of Sp@mX and a second report at the end of week 2. In the first week our spam messages had decreased from over 600 per day to an average of 360 per day, a remarkable 40 plus per cent reduction. During week two of our trial we processed a total of 1,640 spam messages or 234 per day for a 35 per cent reduction below the week one rate.
In week 3 we processed 1,145 spam messages or 164 per day for another 30 per cent reduction.
During week 3 we received 101 server acknowledgements of our abuse reports on 1,145 spam messages processed. This compares with 191 on 2,523 in week 1 and 213 on 1,640 in week 2.
We still get lots of Mail Return Errors, 54 during week 3. We got 75 each of the first two weeks.
Sp@mX still seems to be working as advertised. Our spam messages have been reduced by 40+, 35 and 30 per cent in the three weeks that we have been using it. Our spam message load has gone from over 4000 per week down to 1145, a significant reduction if not zero. We have processed 5308 spam messages and seem to be headed towards zero but the rate of decrease is slowing some. Next week we'll post the results for the fourth and final week of this trial. [Bill Fox]
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