Ideal specs for a Mac minitower

I'd love to see something this from Apple. It would definitely fill the huge gap between the Mac Mini and Mac Pro, without cannibalizing too many Mac Pro sales. What do you fellow Apple geeks think?

- Mid-tower configuration, maybe half the height of a Mac Pro and not quite as deep.
- Intel Core 2 Duo processor, same speeds available on the iMacs
- Up to 4GB DDR2 SDRAM
- Two PCIe slots; one 16X for a graphics board, and one 4X for other peripherals. (note lack of two 16X slots; this would avoid cannibalizing Mac Pro sales for professionals who want more than two displays. I'm being realistic here. ;) )
- Two hard drive bays, preferably plug in bays like the ones on the Mac Pro, but I'd give that up gladly if it keeps the cost down.
- Same graphics options as Mac Pro, in addition to the GeForce 8800 (which should be an option on the Mac Pro too, and the cards should be usable on both systems)
- Single optical drive, same capabilities as on the iMacs
- Same ports as on the Mac Pro (FW800, FW400, USB, optical audio I/O, analog audio I/O, etc.)

This system would sell for around the same price as an iMac of comparable speed. The lack of a built-in monitor ends up paying for slightly increased expandability and easier user serviceability of parts.

I'm happy with my Mac Pro, but most folks DO NOT want to pay $2500 (start) for a desktop system, and a lot of people don't want an all-in-one computer. The system described above would fill this niche perfectly and would be a great addition to the Apple line.

What do ya'll think? :)

Problems with the iPhone

I've previously expressed my opinion on the iPhone; that is, I don't care about it. On the surface, it's a neat gadget, but it seems lacking in some ways. I've had a Sprint Treo 650 for the past two years and definitely love it. But even this two year old phone has critical features that the iPhone lacks. I wonder how many people are going goo goo gaa gaa over the iPhone, but don't realize what it DOESN'T have.

1) You cannot tether your iPhone to a laptop.

This is a MAJOR feature that I use constantly when traveling. Regardless of where I am in the US, I can sit down, press a few buttons on my phone and get on the Internet using my laptop over bluetooth. The connection isn't all that fast, but it works. No matter how powerful the iPhone's built in apps may be claimed to be, I'd much rather use my full size laptop to get on the net when I can. Leaving out such a critical feature that even the lowliest of phones have these days is inexcusable.

2) No memory expansion at all.

Even my two year old Treo and many cheaper phones have SD/miniSD/microSD slots; why doesn't the iPhone have one? Yes, it has a few gigabytes of flash memory built in, but what if I want to expand upon it? SD cards will probably be up to 8GB or even 16GB in a couple of years; I should be able to insert one to upgrade my phone. Can't do this with the iPhone, no way!


EDGE is slow. It's even slower than 1xRTT, the technology my two year old Treo uses. It's INSANELY slower than EV-DO, which the new Treos support on Sprint and Verizon. All the demos you've seen of the phone have been on fast Wi-Fi networks. Don't expect mobile performance to even come close. And, on top of that...

4) AT&T sucks

I've heard nothing but complaints about poor coverage, slow data, dropped calls, etc. People who had AT&T and moved to Sprint or Verizon have been much happier. There's NO REASON the iPhone should be limited to one carrier! You can get a Treo on Sprint, Verizon, AT&T.. any provider you want. I'm sure the providers were climbing over each other to get the iPhone in their lineup; why did Apple go exclusive with AT&T? Plus, their data network sucks; see point 3 above.

5) No third party apps, especially SSH

Yes, there's full AJAX support, but some things, like SSH clients, can't be implemented securely with AJAX. They've wasted the potential of a really powerful device by not allowing third party apps.

In any case, I'm not the only one in this boat; lots of folks can't go iPhone because of these deficiencies. Apple had the chance to do something really groundbreaking, then crippled it. And the sad thing is that they're taking attention away from their product I really DO like, the Mac, to promote this crippled phone.

Sorry, no iPhone for me. And that's all I have to say about that.

The old and the new...

We've come a long way.

These MicroSD cards are so small you can probably swallow one and suffer no ill effects, not to mention shove them in certain places if you want to smuggle data.

Technology is insane.

FED UP with the state of sound on Linux

As many of my friends know, I'm an open source advocate. I like free software, and the free software community has come up with some really amazing things; for instance, GIMP, Firefox, Thunderbird, Linux itself, and so on.

However, there's one thing that no one seems to ever be able to get right: Sound on linux.

My boss just called me because he couldn't get "idefisk", an IP phone application, to run. The reason? It couldn't open /dev/dsp because it was "in use by another application". I had to kill artsd to get it to work.

"In use by another application"?? This is 2007, not 1995! Sound devices on Windows and Mac OS have been multiplexed for over 13 years now; why the hell hasn't Linux implemented this??

They had a chance to when ALSA was developed. ALSA stands for "Advanced Linux Sound Architecture", and was supposed to solve many of these problems. But it hasn't. ALSA devices can still be inaccessible because they are "in use by another application". You might not hear a chime from your E-mail application telling you about new mail because you are playing MP3s using XMMS.

ARRRGH WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE FIX THIS ALREADY! And user-land APIs like arts are *NOT* acceptable, simply because there's more than one of them and they can't run concurrently.

Some kernel sound card drivers have quietly solved the problem; I've always used EMU10kx cards in my linux boxes because their audio devices *never* block. Even years ago you could open /dev/dsp fifty times on a system with an SBLive! card in it, and all of your audio streams would play at once. Unfortunately this is something that was implemented on a very low level in the driver, and is not a general feature that Linux sound drivers have.

This needs to be fixed. Otherwise Linux on the desktop will continue to be a laughing stock. People see dialogs like "/dev/dsp is in use" and boggle, thinking "WTF?" because no other operating system has such ancient limitations anymore.

And yes, I know the open source mantra is "you can fix it yourself", but honestly, I don't have time. There are already people working on this who can do the job. "Well, it sorta works" is not enough, people. Get with the program. Look at Mac OS X and *shudder* even Windows and learn by example.

-an annoyed geek lynx

Lynxie the cat in HD!

You need a fast computer to play this. A G5 or Intel-based Macintosh or a Pentium 4 3GHz or faster Windows (running Quicktime 7) or Linux (running mplayer) PC should be able to handle it.

It's more or less a test video as I play with the format, so no critiquing my cinematography. I borrowed a Canon HV20 camcorder from work and have been messing with it. It has a 24p mode, but iMovie HD can't work with 24p, so I shot this in 30i and deinterlaced it prior to compression.

I hope they add a 24p mode to iMovie HD soon; I hate interlacing. It's a damn evil concept and always makes video look odd on progressive displays.

Here it is. (71MB) Not bad for a sub-$1000 camera, hmm?


The entirety of a trouble ticket:

I'm having mouse problems.

That's nice. Can you be more specific? I feel like replying "Your request has been forwarded to the exterminators; your office should be sprayed by Monday." and closing the ticket.


How to get banned from a computer lab in 1995.

I was reminded of this recently while talking to a friend and thought I'd tell the tale of when I got banned from the Engineering lab at FIU. Unfairly of course!

I was a Freshman, and this was back in 1995. The EIC lab was the Engineering department's pride and joy; it was basically a lab of 486DX2/66 computers with 16MB of RAM (still a decent machine in 1995) on 10base-2 (coax) ethernet.

The subnet ran both IPX (Novell NetWare) and IP on the same wire, but the vast majority of lab stations did not have IP addresses. In order to get out to the net, you had to use LAT to connect to one of the VAX systems on campus, SERVAX or SERVMS. Oddly enough, though, all the systems had Trumpet Winsock and Netscape installed under Windows, they just didn't have IP addresses set.

I already knew quite a bit about IP networking and Winsock, so of course whenever I was in the lab I'd sneakily grab an unused IP address and happily browse the web while everyone else was still stuck using terminal sessions to the VAX. Luckily, nobody seemed to notice or care.

Until I typoed my favorite IP address. Yep, I was using the same one for a while, but this time I typoed and used the same IP as the print server in the lab. Oops. Printing was down. The lab manager quickly noticed the frosh running Netscape and I was fried. I pleaded my case, apologizing and admitting that I had been using an unused IP address and had typoed that day, but they were merciless.

Banned from the lab for two semesters!

The ironic part of this story is that less than a year later I was hired by the CS department, which eventually took over most of the building. I was one of the student employees who dismantled the lab I had been banned from. I pulled out that thinnet with glee!

Any other fellow geeks have war stories from exploring networks and systems in their college days? :)

A few things Apple has to work on to be even more kickass in my eyes

Apple really does make cool systems. Mac OS X is a wonderful operating system and beats the pants off of Windows in many ways. It's stable, easy to use, and UNIX based so the power is there for those who need it.

However, Apple really has a few issues they need to improve upon. Some of the worse offenders, in my opinion, are:

Hard drive accessibility:

The hard drive, especially the boot drive, is one of the most important components of the system. Everything you store on the system lives on the hard drive, including the operating system and your personal files.

If this is the case, why is Apple so inconsistent about making the hard drive easy to access? For instance, some of the worst offenders in the current Intel Mac line:

iMac: You practically have to disassemble the entire machine to get to the hard drive, a long and risky operation where you can easily damage the system. I hope they fix this in the upcoming refresh!

Macbook Pro: It's not *quite* as bad, but you still have to remove a lot of screws. Being a laptop, some forgiveness is given but it should still be easier, like in the regular Macbook.

Mac Mini: Figuring out how to open this thing up is non-intuitive. Once opened you can get to the disk easily, but it's still a pain in the ass.

Hard drives are also a common failure component, and are something I'd rather change out myself than send a system in for service. Apple really needs to get on the ball and make hard drive replacement a more modular and simple operation. The regular Macbook and the Mac Pro both excel in this department.

Video card availability:

Right now this issue only applies to the Mac Pro, but hopefully it'll apply to other systems in the future if Apple decides to release a new system with replaceable video. Right now there are only two somewhat affordable video cards available for the Mac Pro:

Nvidia 7300GT
ATI Radeon X1900XT

There's also an Nvidia quadro card, but I'm not counting that since it's over $1000 and only for very specialized graphics work.

Really! There should be a low-end and high-end card from each major manufacturer offered, at LEAST. If I like Nvidia, why should I have to buy an ATI card to get decent performance! Apple has usually been all about simplifying their product line, but this is one area where they really shouldn't simplify. They should also offer, for instance, an Nvidia 8xxx series and a lower end ATI X-series, like 1600 or 800. FIX THIS, Apple!

Keyboard quality:

Apple keyboards are mushy pieces of garbage. There's a reason I use an IBM Model M with my Mac Pro. There are third party keyboards like the Matias Tactile Pro, but would it be that hard to include a better keyboard with systems? Apple did a great job with the Mighty Mouse, but the keyboard was barely improved. They used to make better keyboards, such as the Extended Keyboard II; why can't they make good keyboards anymore?

I might add more to this post as I think of more things Apple can fix, but those are the big ones for me right now. They are all things that are easily fixed when designing new systems and can really improve the user experience for those of us who expect slightly more from their computers, but want to stick with Mac OS X.

Photo Blog!

I just noticed I don't have a link to my photo blog anywhere on my main site. Feel free to browse for the occasional cel-phone picture I take of something unusual, funny, or just plain neat.


The Pentium MMX was neat looking

I've been cleaning up and disposing of ancient hardware that I know I'll never use again. This chip was among the stuff I kept.

It's funny how Intel put effort into making something you almost never see look cool. The neat polished metal printing and the pins going all the way through the package to create a spiffy pattern.

This particular chip is dead; I used it for a few months in a 430VX motherboard that drove the processor at 3.3V. Intel pulled a fast one on us, though; they made the Pentium MMX to use a lower supply rail voltage (2.8V) and though the chip worked just fine at 3.3V, it must have run quite hot and eventually died due to thermal failure.

Thankfully it was cheap ($5, already obsolete at the time), but I guess I hung onto it then because it looked cool.

I had completely forgotten I had it.

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