The Low End Mac Mailbag

PowerPC 970 Misinformation, the Perils of Browser Integration, Death of the G5, OS X Complexity, and More

Dan Knight - 2003.02.17 - Tip Jar

Cheerleading, Misinformation, and Moving Ahead with Mac OS X

After reading Why Apple Can't Use the 970 and Cheerleading, Misinformation, and Moving Ahead with Mac OS X, Lee Kilpatrick writes:

When I initially read the "Why Apple Can't Use the 970" article, I was confused. It seemed to contradict everything else I had been hearing about the 970, and how it could be used by Apple. It was only after reading the entire article and seeing your own writing at the bottom, that I realized the first article was factually incorrect. Maybe Gene Steinberg didn't present himself in the best way in his column (his associated comment about file sharing could be considered a bit arrogant), but I do think that your "reader's opinion" article was not well-presented as such.

You claimed it was a "point/counterpoint" presentation, yet the title of the page and the title of the link was "Why Apple Can't Use IBM's PowerPC 970". It wasn't anything like "Why They Can/Why They Can't" or even "Why They Can't: Point/Counterpoint". Also, though you said it was a reader opinion column, that is not clear from the heading. Looking back on the previous 20 or so "My Turn" columns, almost all of them have titles that clearly identify them as opinion - mostly reviews of products, human interest stories like "Confessions of a Mac-Collecting Addict", and many stories about what direction Apple should take for this or that product category. Furthermore, not only did the title of the article give no clue that it was opinion, not fact, but the tag line, quoted from the article, was "The sad truth of the matter is that Apple can not and will not use IBM's PowerPC 970 64-bit chip in any of its systems anytime in the foreseeable future." In other cases where something is presented that was way out there, you, as the editor, usually add a "huh?" or some other commentary when you post the link and the tag line.

The PowerPC 970 article had all the appearance of being an objective, factual article. Its main point was that the 970 didn't have any sort of 32-bit compatibility with the G4 and previous processors' instructions. The entire article was predicated on this, and it went on clear to the end without correction. I guess that I, like Gene Steinberg, expect things published as objective facts to be accurate and true. A "point/counterpoint" format doesn't debate things that are objective and easily verifiable. It debates issues on which people have varying opinions, and different ideas about how to proceed in the future.

It would have been better if you had said something up front about "A reader has written this article/letter, and he has a misconception about the 970." Or, if you were trying to present that this misconception is widespread (not my experience), to point this out, and then to follow his article with your correction.

I can see where you would get upset over Gene's criticism of your site and his repeated criticism of Charles Moore, but I have to agree with him in this case.

I'd always felt the columns title and header graphic made it very clear that My Turn is a reader column. The name has been used time and again both on the Internet and in print journals to indicate a column written by someone not generally associated with the publisher.

We've been publishing My Turn as a reader column since May 2000. A few of the contributors have become regulars at Low End Mac, and several have had repeat appearances in My Turn.

We have never before used the point-counterpoint format, but we have in the past published controversial pieces in hopes of engendering conversation. Instead of waiting for reader replies, I felt that the level of misinformation was so overwhelming that it needed to be addressed immediately. Thus the point-by-point Why Apple Can Use the 970 immediately following Why Apple Can't Use the 970.

Most readers understood it. Many wrote to praise our understanding of the PowerPC 970 and the way we debunked the most common myths about the PPC 970. For the record, the article did not go on "clear to the end without correction" - the entire second half was the correction.

The only way I can see someone not understanding that is if they only read the first few paragraphs and didn't bother to read the whole column.

What an Interesting Pair of Paragraphs

In response to Cheerleading, Misinformation, and Moving Ahead with Mac OS X, Peter da Silva comments

Paragraph 1, near the end of your "Cheerleading" article: 'By integrating the browser with the OS, Microsoft has had an important advantage that Mac couldn't touch until Apple delivered Safari.'

The next paragraph: 'Apple needs to push the advantages. Like viruses. Can anyone name a virus that infects Mac OS X? Anyone? With five million users, you'd think someone would have come up with a virus by now.'

There's a strong relationship there. The vast majority of Windows viruses exploit the security holes created by the integration of the browser with the desktop. What Microsoft sometimes calls "cross-frame attacks" occur because the decision whether to trust a piece of code or not has been moved too deep into the OS. You get a piece of mail, or you visit a website, and the browser (either directly, or via desktop integration with Outlook) finds itself with a name and a request that it be opened.

Unlike Netscape, or any other browser on any OS that I'm familiar with, Internet Explorer is integrated with the desktop. It takes that name, looks at where it is, and if it's in a "safe" place it asks the desktop "how do I open this?".

The problem is, when Outlook calls IE, Outlook has already extracted the attachment and put it in a file on disk. So, it's a local file, and the Desktop says "oh, that's an executable" and runs it.

If this was Netscape, or Opera, or any other conventional piece of software it would say "hey, I don't trust this, I won't open it".

Oh, Microsoft's fixed a lot of these cases, but it's done it piece by piece, instead of saying "hey, this program knows it can't trust the document, let's have it handle it itself". It can't, because that would involve unlinking the desktop and the browser, and that would be admitting that the browser isn't an inherent part of the OS (the HTML renderer, OK, I can see that... but it doesn't need to have the inherent ability to resolve anything itself, it can ask the program that called it), which would mean backing down on everything they've been fighting the DoJ since the mid-90s over.

They can't do that, they'd lose face.

OK, what does this have to do with Apple?

Well, Jobs hates to lose face too. If he comes up with some kind of integrated browser/finder thing, he's heading down the same dark path...

I don't know the ins and outs of Windows (in)security, but I know that Word and Excel macros, Visual Basic, handling of email attachments, Outlook, and Outlook Express are all among the ways viruses propagate in the Windows world. I was unaware that the tight integration of Explorer with Windows also contributed to the problem.

Anyhow, the point I was trying to make (albeit perhaps less clearly than I'd hoped), is that Microsoft's intimate knowledge of Windows allows them to create programs, such as IE 6, that are optimized for Windows in ways that the competition can rarely match. Opera is facing an uphill battle creating the world's fastest browser when it runs on the world's most proprietary operating system.

With Safari, Apple has taken an Open Source project and optimized it for Mac OS X, something similar to what Chimera does with the Mozilla source code and not altogether dissimilar to the way OmniWeb is designed from the ground up as an OS X browser. By customizing the browser specifically for the OS instead of simply recompiling existing source code and leveraging Apple's resources, Safari will be tightly tied to the operating system, although never to the extent IE 6 is on Windows (we hope!).

I don't think Safari will ever integrate with the OS like IE does; we already have Aqua to handle local and networked file services. That's not what I meant when I talked about integration; I meant the way Safari is tightly coupled to the underlying OS, optimized for OS X, and cannot exist without it.

The G5 Is Dead

In response to Why Apple Can't Use the 970, Psychiatry writes:

The G5 is dead. It was suppose to have been released last summer. In addition to the Apple AIO bus vs. Motorola Rapid-IO bus fight, Motorola couldn't get good enough yields. Then Motorola's chip design team became a victim of the flagging economy. That's why Apple worked with IBM to create the 970.

That's the story I'd heard, too, but Motorola doesn't seem willing to say it.

Mac OS X Ruins Simple Networking

In response to Cheerleading, Misinformation, and Moving Ahead with Mac OS X, Rick Barham says:

Well said, Dan, and may I add a few things about Apple and OS X? I've been servicing Macs for years, after switching over from the Wintel crowd when Win 95 debuted. Though I'm a fan of X in many ways, I think Apple has gone way overboard with the networking complexity in OS X. I am constantly receiving calls from those who either switched to X or actually bought a new Mac as their first computer and have had problems figuring out all the "Users" and networking "privileges" built into OS X. And I won't even bother recommending X to any of my clients running a SOHO network.

What used to be a snap to set up and maintain (AppleTalk and AppleShare) has turned into a nightmare for many, with users not being able to access their files after doing a little house cleaning, or almost locking themselves out of the system entirely after trying to share a drive. Ever tried sharing your volume over the network or enabling guest sharing? Have fun! Sure, now we have Rendezvous, but that does nothing to simplify setting up the file sharing side of things, unless everyone is content with nothing more than a "Public" folder.

It used to be so simple in the era of the classic Mac OS and the Chooser. Open the Chooser. Pick a printer or networked volume. Connect. Maybe configure the printer if you haven't used it before.

Intuitive? Not really, but something Mac users became used to over the years. Now we have to remember to go to the Finder, open the Go menu, and go to the bottom for the Connect to Server... option. I can never remember, so I just put an alias on the desktop.

Ditto for printing. It was easy to choose and configure a printer in the old days. Now the question "How do I print?" shows up when the user discovers no printer has yet been selected - and these longtime Mac users don't have a clue how to do it.

Yes, it's smart to let you choose and configure printers from the Print dialog, but it's so different.

I hope Rendezvous and Rendezvous enabled devices will bring back the simplicity, but the NeXT paradigm underlying OS X seems to relish the power, complexity, and obscurity of the underlying BSD Unix while abandoning so many Mac conventions that we've worked with over the years.

Someone needs to write Switching from the Classic Mac OS to Mac OS X for Dummies.

Fortunately we have an old SuperMac C600 with a 15 GB IDE hard drive as our network file server. It runs Mac OS 9, so I know how things work. I prefer to avoid personal file sharing on user machines when an inexpensive older Mac can sit in a corner and serve everyone.

AirPort Extreme USB Printer Sharing

After reading our clarification of printing via the AirPort Extreme hub in Using a USB Printer with Older PowerBooks, Mark Mayer notes:

I think you are misinformed about the USB print sharing capabilities of the AirPort Extreme Base Station. While it is true that you need both Jaguar on your 'puter and a Rendezvous capable printer to use Rendezvous, you don't need it for plain and simple USB print sharing. The automagical thing about rendezvous technology is that it enables devices to recognize each other on a network. No changing setting, no muss, no fuss.

In the realm of speculation I would guess that someone will come up with a hack to use Rendezvous with OS X.1.x and maybe even with OS 9, since rendezvous is open source.

Anyway, just thought you should know the truth. You put a scare into a lot of people over at dealMac and this is how those crazy apple rumors get started. Question your source and then give 'em a good whack for feeding you a bunch of horsepuckey. =)

Keep up the otherwise great work!

I guess I should have gone to Apple instead of assuming that someone who told me I was wrong had experience with the product and knew what he was talking about. Apple has a nice list of printers compatible with USB Printer Sharing with the AirPort Extreme hub, and a lot of these printers predate Rendezvous.

I don't have an AirPort Extreme hub, nor do I expect to ever purchase one (I'll probably go with Belkin or D-Link). Until someone who has one can tell me whether it supports USB printer sharing without the use of Rendezvous, I'll just have to say that I don't know if it works without Rendezvous or not.

Sharing the Internet

After reading Networking 101, Wayne MacKinnon wonders:

I have an iMac which I use for internet (via PPP dialup). I also have a PB 540c with ethernet.

If I network these two machines with a crossover RJ45 cable, will the PowerBook be able to surf the Web as well?

In a word, yes. However, you will need a program to enable sharing the connection, such as SurfDoubler or IPNetRouter. I've used both, and each works well. IPNetRouter has the additional advantage of supporting as many computers as you want; SurfDoubler is limited to three.

Best Mac for Writing Revisited

On Friday, I answered Michael's questions about the Best Mac for Writing. Over the weekend, he replied:

Thank you for taking the time to give me such a comprehensive answer. I have been doing exhaustive research and I have decided on the following:

I had thought of a PowerBook, but they are very expensive in Northern Ireland. I have opted, instead, for a new iBook with full RAM and maximum hard drive, AppleCare, and Microsoft Office for Mac. I am getting all of this at a reasonable price that will leave me money to try broadband for the year.

My choice is not ideal but a compromise between what I really need, what I really wanted, and cost. Ideally, I would have gone for a 17" or 20" Cinema Display with a big Power Mac G4, Apple Pro Speakers, the works. But upon reflection this seemed excessive and indulgent considering that I really only use a computer as a glamourized typewriter.

I hope my choice meets with your approval. I will be ordering my iBook this Friday. It will be my first Apple.

Once again, thank for your reply and time.

Best wishes,

A writing tool is very much an individual choice, and most of us have to make our tools fit limited budgets. I know a lot of people who are very happy with iBooks; I'm sure you'll join their ranks.

Broadband is a worthwhile investment. The Internet is only as fast as you can access it.

I've done fine without Microsoft Office, but in the real world of sending files to publishers, it's probably the path of least resistance. I find AppleWorks adequate for all my word processing and spreadsheet needs, but 95% of the world's computers wouldn't have a clue what to do with the files it creates.

Congratulations on your new "glamourized typewriter."

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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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