Temptation Comes in Many Forms

By Graham K. Rogers

Having evicted my iMac gremlins, I had a couple of clean-running weeks: back to the conditions of the first two years with OSX. Recognising that there have been hardware developments, I had been saving for a PowerBook; but I walked into the Siam Discovery Centre and saw that the basic 1.25GHz eMac G4 was on offer at 29,990 baht. Apple's advertisement was a trifle misleading as (I was told) this price is for "Education". My Mahidol teacher's card was good enough and I capitulated. I could also afford an extra GigaByte of RAM which would make it really fly.

ipodI considered an external Firewire hard-disk, but when I compared prices, I picked up a 15GB iPod and said, "Put this in a bag, please." I can have hard disk capacity when convenient and listen to music. With most of my CDs already on the iMac, in AAC format, transfer was quick -- my calendars and address books too -- and I still have more than 10GB free.

I ordered the eMac on a Saturday, asking the shop to install memory and keep it running for a few days, then arranged to collect it Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately the gremlins transferred themselves to the BMW on Tuesday morning and I woke up in hospital. More than a week later and I have still not collected the eMac.

When I was brought home, six days later, and unlocked my office door, the iMac was still running (in sleep mode), so there had been no extended power cuts. I plugged in the phone line and began to check mail: 793 messages. I am now up to date. The files I had been working on were all open; and the software began its delayed maintenance routines in an instant. It is as if I had just walked away for five minutes and resumed work.

One of the files open, was an image of the new top-of-range G5 processor assembly: two-chip, 2.5GHz, watercooled. I had been talking about water cooling with new students the previous week (they laughed until I reminded them of the Cray) and a few days later, the real thing enters the commercial market. The closed-loop system uses water with propylene glycol and a biological agent: it works something like fridges, or car cooling systems. As some G5 chips are rumoured to run above 80 Celsius (I also have a set of images of egg-frying on a Pentium), this may be the way to go.

Details of the new G5s are at the Apple Site and there is a useful review by Tom Krazit available, with the internals viewable (and here).

With three new G5s and a range of speedier laptops, plus the announcement that the 3GHz G5 is not imminent, one wonders what Steve Jobs will announce in San Francisco this week apart from OSX "Tiger".

The Military have stringent standards for hardware. It was good to hear that, after acquisitions of Macs by other agencies in recent months, the US Army has ordered 1,566 Xserve G5s to make a new supercomputer (after the success of the Virginia Tech cluster). With more open licensing and less maintenance downtime, the XServe is coming to be recognised as a real alternative to current systems.

Apple and BMW (the car guys, not the real BMWs) have a tie-up with the iPod. Plug the iPod in and on certain cars you can switch songs using steering wheel controls. More information is at this joint Apple/BMW site and Apple's own pages. I would love something like this for long rides on the bike (or its replacement). I have tried iPod phones inside the helmet, but above 80 kph wind-noise takes over; plus there are safety considerations. I once had a BMW K100LT with a cassette player, but the speakers were useless at anything more than a walking pace. Later LT models had integrated CD decks, but the iPod (which is removable) is an attractive solution. At home I plug in the Harmonn-Kardon "Creature" speakers which give greater power to iPod output.

tunes list

As well as music, talking books are available from various sources; or you can make your own with iSpeak It. It uses the Mac's built-in voices, like Victoria, and converts text into sound files that it adds to iTunes: the next time the iPod is plugged in, files are transferred. There are options to download from online sources, or use text files (including .doc format) on the computer. It may not sound as smooth as Bill Clinton's speaking book but does have possibilities above mere laziness.

Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to Graham K. Rogers.

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