somewhat daily mutterings

/Computing/Mac Headless iMac?!?

According to MacRumors it's coming - a low-cost, headless iMac. I think this will do a lot to lure home users to Apple, as long as Apple blitzes the media appropriately.

The new Mac is said to be incredibly small and will be housed in a flat enclosure with a height similar to the 1.73 inches of Apple's Xserve. Its size benefits will include the ability to stand the Mac on its side or put it below a display or monitor.

I wish them luck!

Posted: Wed Dec 29 09:12:52 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac OmniGraffle 3.0 Rocks!

I always liked the copy of OmniGraffle 2.x that came with my PowerMac. That is, I liked it fine, but I didn't love it. Well, today I needed to whip out some new graphics for a presentation I'm working on, so I shelled out the $79 for the OmniGraffle 3.x Pro upgrade. All I can say is wow.

They've done a lot to improve the program. I found it much easier than ever to make sweeping changes to a diagram. The program is very "active", meaning it gives feedback at all times, which is very cool. For example, if you're laying out boxes on a page, it pops up little guidelines as soon as a given box is in alignment with another box as you're dragging. Or, while you're dragging, it shows dimension lines that demonstrate whether you're centered, or equally spaced, with respect to other objects. Hard to describe, but very easy to use. Good stuff!

Physical Packaging Diagram, done with OmniGraffle 3.0 [PDF]

One disappointment is the continuing lack of high-quality stencils. While you can download "aftermarket" stencils from the extras area of the Omni Group site, it would be so much better if they'd just added the best of these to the product along with some additional, professionally designed, rather than making users bother with it. If Omni only did that, OmniGraffle would definitely be kicking some Visio butt.

Posted: Sat Oct 23 20:41:24 -0700 2004

/Computing/Mac "Datacenter" News

New Monitor

I've been having a little trouble with my 21" Sun CRT over the past few months, and this weekend I'd had enough. So, I went out and got an Apple 23" Cinema HD Display at MicroCenter. Actually, the story is longer than that. I bought a 23" first. But when I was paying, the cashier made a huge deal about the size of the monitor, and made the mistake of planting doubt: "hey, just keep in mind that if this doesn't fit in your setup, you'll have to pay a restocking fee to return it". So, within 10 minutes I'd convinced myself that I didn't actually have room on my desk for the 23". So I traded it out for a 20".

But once I got the 20" set up I realized two things: I actually had plenty of room for the 23", and I was disappointed in the overall resolution of the 20". It felt a little cramped after having run my Sun at 1600x1200 for so long. So, today I went back to MicroCenter and traded back for the 23". They were excellent about waiving the restocking fee, given that I'd just bought the monitor yesterday, and it was perfectly re-packed.

My crib, rockin the 23"

New Cube Webserver Deployed

I installed the 512M stick of memory in the Cube ('ice') this weekend, then set to work decomissioning my Sun boxes and putting the Cube in their place. It was kind of sad shutting 'buzz', my Sun Ultra 1 down. He's been running the site for years, and he was regularly up for very long, trouble-free intervals. RIP buzz, let's hope that ice works as well as you have.

Having no fan, the Cube is relatively silent (except for a bit of hard-drive noise) compared to the old Sun iron. It fits quite nicely into my "server rack". As a matter of fact, there's room for another. A cube-cluster, perhaps? :-)

The Cube, Racked-up

Posted: Mon Oct 18 06:16:02 -0700 2004

/Computing/Mac G4 Cube on the Way

I just won a used Mac G4 Cube on eBay. It has a 30GB hard drive and 768MB of RAM. I'll be putting it into service as a music and web server. Its assignment to web serving duties will mark the end of my Sun Ultra 1 200e box's reign as web server, something it's done well for number of years now. The Sun box is actually still running fine (as a matter of fact it's been up for 133 consecutive days now), but it's running low on disk space and I'm losing interest in Solaris administration. In addition, the Mac has many more peripheral options (such as the ability to take a wireless card and firewire drives) and a better overall upgrade path should I choose to make upgrades (probably not). It is smaller, more elegant, and has no fan to make noise, so that's great, too.

As an aside, since I mentioned my Sun box's uptime, I thought it would only be fair to mention my iBook's uptime: 70 days, as of today. In and out of sleep, on and off AC power, switching networks, installing software, etc. It's been up for 70 days without issue. That's better even than my PowerBook (which admittedly gets the harder workout).

Posted: Thu Sep 30 20:31:16 -0700 2004

/Computing/Mac New iBooks and PowerBooks are Out ...

... and they look great. The PBs have gotten (a little) faster and offer better graphics cards and a faster SuperDrive, the iBooks are a lot faster, and the "big" iBook now offers a SuperDrive. Which reminds me that I've always felt that a 15" widescreen iBook with a fast processor (not as fast as in the PB line, of course), would kill on the market. They'd have to keep the memory limits low and leave out other PB niceties, as they currently do, to keep the iBook from stealing sales from the PB, but I think a 15" iBook would sell like nothing else.

The bummer of the G4 iBook, of course, is that I bought a G3 iBook last summer. When they announced the G4 model just a few months later, the value of my G3 plummeted. Good for new buyers, bad for me. Oh well.

Posted: Tue Apr 20 05:01:00 -0700 2004

/Computing/Mac New GIANT Hard Drive

Well, the once seemingly huge 60G drive on my G4 desktop has been starting to feel cramped lately. Last I checked I "only" had 8M left. With the imminent arrival of the Garage Band Jam Pack, which I believe takes another 3G, I was definitely in need of more hard drive space. As luck would have it, I happened to be in MicroCenter the other day with a friend that was shopping for a new Mac laptop, and they had LaCie 160GB firewire drives on sale for $169. Geez, just over $1 per gig. Hard to pass up, so I bought one. It's now humming away hosting my 25GB or so of music, with 122.5GB free. And suddenly my original hard drive has 31GB free. Unreal. The only thing cooler would be to have bought two of them and run them as a mirrored RAID array. Maybe when they get even cheaper.

Posted: Tue Feb 17 20:30:52 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac PowerBook Update

My second post about my new PowerBook was unfortunately kind of lukewarm (I didn't think the battery lasted long enough). However, now that I've lived with "sylph" for a couple of weeks, I'm pretty much in love. I've been using the machine at work, pretty much as my main development machine, even though they gave me a very fast Windows box. Sylph, which is currently carrying "only" 512M of RAM, compiles our entire source tree to a .war file in about 45 seconds. My manager's 2.4ghz Compaq laptop takes about a minute longer to compile it (under cygwin). So, you could say I'm pretty happy with the PB's performance :-).

It's also proven to be as much of a champ as the household's other Mac laptops (a 900mhz iBook and 550mhz TiBook), in terms of stability. I'm constantly sleeping it, waking it, plugging in, unplugging, switching between wireless and wired networking, adding a mouse and taking it off, etc., and it has never stumbled. I think over the last week I've only turned it off once, and it's been carried in and out of different environments daily.

I can recommend a few accessories that I've been very happy with:

  • WildEepz from RadTech. They're little urethane dots that make the case top and bottom mate better when the 'book is closed.
  • A PowerSleeve(z), also from RadTech. This is a very nice slipcover that I use before dropping the PB into my bag.
  • The size 11 SleeveCase from WaterField Designs. This is a very nice case for carrying the PowerBook on short journeys where you don't need a lot of gear, but want protection for the 'Book. I added the optional D-rings and suspension strap. This is top-notch gear. I originally ordered it along with the WaterField Cargo bag, but decided to send back the Cargo bag and just stick my old tried-and-true Tumi Computer Brief (mine is much older than the one at the linnk) for commuting duties. This is no reflection on the Cargo bag -- it was of very impressive quality. Gary at WaterField was great about processing the return with no fuss whatsoever. I highly recommend this manufacturer of great laptop gear.

Posted: Sat Feb 07 16:02:53 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac More 15" PowerBook Observations

There's one big problem with the PowerBook so far. I think many others have complained about it, too. It's the battery life, which is appalling. So far I've been lucky to get two hours out of it (with full power saving mode on), whereas my iBook will rock out for three or more. OK, the iBook is a G3 with a lower clock speed, but come on, you'd think that Apple would have been able to engineer a reasonable battery life into this $2600 computer, especially when they brag of four hour runtimes. Perhaps there will be an upgrade path for this particular battery someday.

I also downloaded and ran PiXelCheck from MacUpdate in order to uncover any dead pixels on my LCD. Good news! All perfect.


OK, maybe I was a bit quick to judge the battery life on my new PowerBook. Tonight I used it for easily over a couple of hours (I didn't really time it, but it held out much longer than the night before). I guess I should have taken into account the fact that I was using the DVD drive last night to install some software - that definitely drags down the battery. Of course, that doesn't bode well for watching a movie on a plane trip.

Posted: Tue Jan 27 20:37:09 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac New 15" Aluminum PowerBook is Here...

...and it's as nice as I hoped it would be. Of course, I'd fondled plenty of PowerBooks at the Apple Store, but it's different when it's yours, and sitting happily on your lap, rather than tethered by cords.

Probably what has made the biggest first impression is the solidity and quality feel of the keyboard. I was happy with the keyboard on the iBook (although it was panned by MacWorld earlier this year), but the one on the PowerBook is a revelation. I've also been pleasantly surprised by the lack of significant heat while I've used it on my lap. I was afraid I'd been spoiled by the iBook's cool-running nature, but the PowerBook hasn't gotten unreasonably warm, so far (but I must admit I set the power saving features to use a lower processor speed, so maybe that's why it's running relatively cool).

The monitor has no signs of spotting (yet), and looks really great. It's nice to have the additional desktop space, compared to the iBook.

I must say that the PowerBook isn't as easy to tuck under an arm and carry around the house as the iBook is. I still think the iBook is a great choice, especially now that they have the G4 processor, so if you don't have either a need (or just an irrational desire) for the extras that a PowerBook offers, go for an iBook.

Posted: Mon Jan 26 21:11:07 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac Quake 3 Arena (Gold) on OS X

Out of the box, Quake 3 Arena plays great on a Mac, that is if you don't mind rebooting into OS 9 to play it. Well, I did, and do, mind. After starting to play the excellent game Medal of Honor, which is based on the Q3A engine, and runs under OS X, I finally got around to putting some real effort into making Q3A itself run under OS X. I had tried before to apply the 1.32 OS X patch, but ran into problems running the game - I ran into those same problems again on this go-round, but laboriously worked my way through them by visiting several support sites and forums.

I've decided to document the steps here for everyone's benefit. Note that these steps worked for me on the Quake 3 Arena, Gold edition, under OS X Panther. Your mileage may vary.

  1. Move your Q3A install folder to the Applications (system, not user, domain) directory. By default, it installs to the "root" directory of your HD, as shown by Finder. I believe this is because it was shipped as an OS 9 app.
  2. Rename the install directory something unique. I named mine "Quake 3 Gold".
  3. Install the 1.32 point release. The patch is available from a number of download sites. I got mine from Planet Quake. Run the installer, which will put the point release in a "Quake3" folder under Applications. I renamed this folder to "Quake OS X", but you don't have to.
  4. Copy the PAK0.PK3 file. Copy the file from the "baseq3" directory of the original install (the one you just moved) to the baseq3 of the point release's Quake3 directory.
  5. Run the "Quake3 10.2 G4" app, and frag away. If everything is set up correctly, upon double-clicking the icon, you'll be immediately greeted with the id logo in a small window, followed by a switch to full-screen Quake. Rock on!

I have to admit the multiplayer mode of this particular release crashes on my machine. I haven't bothered with multiplayer Quake in a long time, so it wasn't a real disappointment. Therefore, I haven't researched how to fix this particular problem. Perhaps it's just my setup.

Posted: Sat Jan 24 21:53:28 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac New PowerBook on the Way!

I finally succumbed to tempation and have ordered a 15" 1.25Ghz Aluminum PowerBook, which comes with all the cool goodies. I bought it from, at a very good price.

Months of lusting after MB's 550mhz TiBook led me to start shopping for a good deal on eBay for a latest-generation 1.0Ghz TiBook, but I got very frustrated with what I considered a pattern of too-high bidding for these outdated (but still beautiful) machines. I mean, some of them were going for money that would buy a brand new 1Ghz AlBook.

I briefly pondered buying the 1.0Ghz machine from the Apple Store, but realized that I'd have to do a number of expensive upgrades immediately to make it truly useable. After upgrades, the price didn't sound so great. Then I found a great deal on the 1.25Ghz model at, via The price there was around what I'd pay for an upgraded 1Ghz model, so I bit.

The question now is, what to do with my 900mhz iBook? It's a great machine - it runs cool, is very compact, and is relatively indestructable. I'm considering taking it to my new job (more on that in an upcoming post) to use as my main development machine. It would be really cool to use OS X as my day-to-day development platform. We'll see...


After four days of checking the order status at, and not seeing the status change from "your order is being processed", I called them. I learned that the PowerBooks were backordered 7-10 days, and was offered the chance to cancel. I didn't cancel right away, but shopped around until I could find another similar deal from a company that had the machines in stock. I ended up ordering from CTI International who had a bottom-line price of about $60 more -- and they had the PowerBook in stock, ready to ship.

Posted: Tue Jan 13 12:41:31 -0800 2004

/Computing/Mac Man Expires at Keyboard Waiting on OS X Panther Install

As I type this on my PowerMac G4 I'm installing Panther on my iBook. I'm considering cryogenics to ensure that I someday see the freshly-installed OS actually running. It's taking for-freaking-ever. I guess I'm just impatient.

PS: I later realized that the install defaults to installing all languages. That's what was taking so long. How stupid is that?

Posted: Fri Oct 24 19:37:59 -0700 2003

/Computing/Mac Apple is Classy

I pre-ordered the Panther release of OS X, which is to be released today. Apple Stores are having a release special from 8:00-12:00pm, which is fine, but I'm not into the crowd thing (although you never know, I may go). Anyway, I had wondered whether Apple would ship Panther in such a way that those of us who pre-ordered it would get it on release day. The answer is yes. I had an email from Apple this morning letting me know Panther had been shipped via FedEx overnight. I checked on, and indeed my package is in Denver this morning. Apple Rocks!

Posted: Fri Oct 24 07:32:19 -0700 2003

/Computing/Mac "New" PowerBook in the Family

Yesterday, we received the PowerBook I bought off eBay for MB. It's a 550mhz (second generation) PB with the AirPort card already installed. It is in essentially perfect condition, which is really great. I spent a few hours last night installing software and pulling our Quicken files over to it from the Dell (what a pain). The machine is so elegant I almost wish it was mine, but I still love the tinyness and portability of my iBook, so I'll stick with that.

Posted: Wed Aug 06 06:18:17 -0700 2003

Thanks for visiting! Send comments to Mike Thomas.