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My last Macworld

January 15, 2008 Leave a comment

Registration for Macworld (in November): $10
Downtown parking in San Francisco: $9
Attending the most disorganized and disjointed Macworld ever: Worthless.

Those of you outside my family who read this blog know that I have an, um, history with Macs. I’m a Mac owner since 1992, a former Mac Marine during the mid-’90s when Apple was circling the wagons, and I am a firm and solid advocate for the PowerPC platform (want to hear my PowerPC speech about how distros are booting a routine grounder by not developing for it? I thought not. But suffice it to say, Thank God for Debian, which has the smarts to keep developing for the PowerPC).

And those who have been keeping score at home know my conversion to GNU/Linux comes at the hands of Apple’s myopic philosophy at the turn of the century in making perfectly good, well-built hardware — and Apple does have the best built, most beautiful hardware — obsolete with its menagerie of predatory cats which are not exactly backwards compatible.

I have been attending Macworlds — whether in San Francisco or in Tokyo — since 1994, which is 14 by my count, and today’s opening was a complete clusterfsck. I don’t know who’s to blame — IDG, the expo’s organizers; or Apple, or the city of San Francisco — but after taking over two hours to get my pass, I had to choose between two different venues. Historically, Macworld took place in the North and South auditoriums of the Moscone Center. This one took place in the South auditorium and something on 4th Street called the West auditorium. Hence, your traffic tie-up in downtown San Francisco comes courtesy of Steve Jobs.

This is not to say that the keynote wasn’t interesting: a wafer-think notebook of which the Apple technician in line in front of me said, “I’m not touching these things — if one comes to my shop, I have the option of putting it in a box and shipping it to Cupertino. If I open something this small, I’ll break it;” as well as now you can get a ton of movies that you can watch on your Mac via streaming video, and a couple of other iPod related niceties.

However, there was nothing extremely compelling this year on the software or accessory side. There was nothing terribly thrilling in the way of hardware — save for the MacBook Sliver (or whatever it’s called — Air, I think) — and peripherals; in fact, most of what was there seemed to be the same hardware/peripherals as last year.

Swag? Fuggedaboudit. Non-existent.

So this is it: The final Macworld for me. From now on, I’m marking August as the month when I go back to Moscone for LinuxWorld.

(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source and Free Software Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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A world apart

July 14, 2007 5 comments

In Mac circles — or more specifically, in those Mac circles where GNU/Linux is spoken — there are references to the types of machines with PowerPC processors being “Old World” and “New World.”

Generally, “Old World” revolves around those PowerPC Macs which come in two colors: beige and black (with the exception of the PowerBook G3 Lombard with the Bronze keyboard and the FireWire connections — I think this one belongs in the next category). Thank heavens for BootX and quik, which allow those of us (and yes, I still own Old World hardware) to boot GNU/Linux.

The “New World” Mac — whether it’s just a voyage over the PowerPC line of demarcation or whether it’s a brave, new one — “comes in colors everywhere,” as the iMac ad with the Rolling Stones song attested to so many years ago. From the iMac on, these color-laden machines have the distinct GNU/Linux advantage of working with most distros through the miracle of yaboot.

It begs the question: If the original PowerPC machines up to the iMac are “Old World,” and those that have come after are “New World,” what do we call the Macs that now come with Intel processors?

I think I have the answer.

Call them “Other World” Macs, of course.

The term “Other World” Macs covers a lot of bases. To those of us who remember the dopey clean-room technician disco dancing promo from Intel — and Apple’s ad setting them aflame — it harkens back to a bittersweet time when Apple aficionados were both circling the wagons while thumping their chests to take on all comers (God, how I miss the Power Computing reps clad in khakis at ’90s-era Macworlds, or being a proud MacMarine back during that time . . . but I digress. But those of us who go back that far understand that today’s Intel Macs are Porsches with Chevy engines).

To those who caught the wave after Apple rebounded at the end of the ’90s and through the first half of this decade, you’ll notice that the new Apple zeitgeist — both the trend away from computers to “appliances” as well as the trend toward being “all encompassing” — consists of making your hardware seem obsolete so you, well, buy another Mac, regardless of whether the technology on your desk (or on your lap) really is obsolete. To wit: There will come a day — soon, I understand (and as soon as 10.5, I’m told, but I can’t confirm that) — when the latest version of OS X will not work on your PowerPC-based Macs. So then what do you do with your perfectly good hardware running an OS that Apple implies is outdated?

So that MacBook and that MacPro share a name with what you’re using, if you’re using a PowerPC Mac, but with the exception of high quality hardware, little else is the same between the Intel Macintoshes and the ones that come before it.

And when you can’t use the latest 10-point-whatever on your machine, the solution is to switch to GNU/Linux.

[Note: I’ve ranted enough in the past about the technical superiority of Mac hardware, and I’ll gladly spare you the stump speech. But Mac hardware does last forever and those distros which turn their backs on the PowerPC platform — hello, Ubuntu? — are making a big mistake because these machines are going to be around for a long, long time.]

The new Macs are, well, different than those released earlier in this decade — better, arguably, but different nonetheless, and hence they deserve another informal designation. Unless someone comes up with something more official, I’d stick with “Other World” for its other-worldly nature.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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Miscellaneous ramblings

June 18, 2007 2 comments

BoliviarianViva Venezuela: A big muchas gracias goes to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez for having the VIT (Venezuela de Industria Tecnologica), and the Venezuelan Ministry of Light Industry and Commerce produce the Bolivarian computer (named after the South American anti-imperialist revolutionary Simon Bolivar, for those of you who caught up on your sleep in World History class). The Bolivarian computer runs on GNU/Linux, further thumbing the Venezuelan nose at el norte. Bear in mind that this is a nation that offered to supply freezing Northeasterners heating oil this past winter when the White House and Congress would just as soon let them shiver, and they’re also offering to export the machines as well (are you listening, Michael Dell?). A detailed story on this computer and the country that brings it to you can be found at Venezuelanalysis.com.

Speaking of Dell . . . I went to put my money where my mouth is, and they wouldn’t take it. Having blasted Dell — rightfully, I think — over the years, I wrote in an earlier blog posting that I’d get a Dell laptop if they offered Ubuntu. Well, they kept up their end of the bargain, and when I went to buy a laptop on-line (apparently the only place where you can get the Dell-with-Ubuntu deal), my credit was rejected. Reason: Insufficient credit history, which is true. I swore off credit cards in the late 1970s, but I thought having a clean slate would be a good thing. Apparently not, according to our friends at Dell. Being a man of my word, I’ve been putting together a fund to buy one, but now it will take a few months.

Heroes and wankers: Here’s something out of a college professor’s playbook — Read the items at the following links. Compare and contrast these two distro “executives” and explain why one is a hero who leads a growing and vibrant brand and the other is a world-class wanker who, with a stroke of a pen, sent his downwardly spiraling distro into further obscurity and probable extinction.

Mark Shuttleworth on not signing agreements with Microsoft

Kevin Carmony on selling out Linspire

Correct answer: Shuttleworth=hero, Carmony=wanker. If you answered this way, then go to the head of the class.

linuxmintMinty freshness: Linux Mint has removed the proprietary software from its version 3.0 “light” version. “Cassandra Light edition was released and is available for download,” announced Clement Lefevbre in a release. “The purpose of the Light edition is to bring an edition of Linux Mint which doesn’t contain: proprietary software, patented technologies and support for restricted formats. In some countries where the legislation allows software patents to be enforced, the Light edition provides a way for users to legally download Linux Mint.” Also, you did it for those of us who would prefer not to use proprietary software too, right Clement? Thanks, Linux Mint!

Got it! I broke down and bought a personalized license plate in California for an extra $60 a year. My car, a burgundy ’94 Volkswagen Jetta, will bear “GNU LNUX” front and back once the plates arrive. Film at 11.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

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News, blues and reviews

March 13, 2007 Leave a comment

Finally grabbing a minute from my duties (in no particular order) as Dad, chauffeur, daily newspaper copy editor, raffle-ticket seller, Green Party official, honey-do husband and Open Source Reporter editor/publisher/webmaster, allow me a few random thoughts, cheap shots and bon mots (to quote the San Francisco Chronicle’s Scott Ostler):

Lost in the shuffle: While panic reigned for the last couple of weeks regarding Daylight Saving Time being moved up a couple of weeks and while the Y2K-like distress accompanied the advent of yet another meaningless time change (which, incidently, should be abolished), did it occur to anyone to . . . ahem . . . just go into your preferences, find the time/date item and just set the clock ahead an hour? Sheesh.

C’est Ubuntu: This just in from across the Atlantic — the French government has decided to forego Windows and have the government work with an open source operating system, specifically the GNU/Linux distro known by all (and loved by many) as Ubuntu. Starting in June, 1,154 desks of the legislators and their parliamentary assitants in the National Assembly will feature GNU/Linux-based computers. Allez, France! “More on the story,” as we say at OSR, from C|Net can be found here. But wait, there’s more . . .

Who’s carrying the ball for Open Source in England? It ain’t Labour, surprisingly. The Conservatives have run with this issue, as shadow chancellor George Osborne has been saying to all that will listen that a Conservative government will insist all software is open source would cut the the UK’s IT costs by 5 percent. Hello, Tony? More on the story, again, from Britian’s IT Contractor here.

Gentoo hubbub: The GNU/Linux distro known as Gentoo has fallen on hard times. Or has it? DistroWatch, an above-average source of news in the GNU/Linux world, touched off a bit of a back-and-forth firestorm on the site’s weekly report. What more interesting than DW publisher Ladislav Bodnar’s story about Gentoo is the firefight in the reader comments that are linked at the bottom of the report’s page. In his story, Bodnar writes that “[F]urthermore, one has to wonder: with the amount of time some of them spend flaming other people on the various mailing lists and planet blogs, do they actually have any time for coding?” So how do some of the pro-Gentoo people respond? With flamethrowers blazing, of course. A legitimate question, Ladislav, and a good story that, flaming aside, has resulted in a good discussion on your great site. Stick to your guns.

What will it be, Steve?: Those of you who know me — those three of you outside my family now reading this — know that I’m a completely committed Mac guy. Despite the fact I have taken the free software and open source software path, I still think that Apple still makes the best built hardware, period. I say this because having been faithful to the hardware for the last 15 years, I’m siding with DefectiveByDesign.org in asking everyone to sign a petition going to Steve Jobs to “set the ethical example” by eliminating digital rights management (DRM) from iTunes. You can click on the gif at the left to sign the petition (go ahead, but don’t forget to come back). The petition responds to an open letter Jobs wrote on DRM last month. C’mon Steve: Other than axing the Newton (yes, finally I’ve forgiven you for that), your record has been flawless, and those of us who are eternally grateful to you for saving Apple hope you will continue to do the right thing. Keep it up by keeping your word on April 1.

Who left the dog out? Yep, I did. My apologies to the well known, and fairly loved, GNU/Linux distro known as Puppy — a dog that didn’t make it into my GNU/Linux zoo tome a few blogs ago. It should have, and I really did plan to put it there, but I forgot. Here, have a Milk Bone, Puppy folks, and thanks for sparing me the embarrassment of notifying me personally in very civil e-mails — rather than frying me, Gentoo-supporter style, on my own blog.

[FSF Associate Member](Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)

Old World guy in a New World world

February 6, 2007 Leave a comment

Despite the fact that my loyalty to my hardware borders on obsessively legendary (or just plain obsessive in legendary proportions), those of you who know me know that I’m a Mac guy. I’ve been a Mac guy since I started working on them at NBC in Burbank in the early ’90s (okay, confessional: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned — I was on the script staff of the Saturday morning sitcom “Saved By the Bell” as the assistant script supervisor). Prior to that, I had built my own PC despite owning an Apple //c (that two-see in English) and leaned toward the Intel side until ’92.

Over the years since my conversion in 1992, I’ve never strayed, facing the east toward Cupertino in homage (except for that one time that I cursed Steve Jobs for killing the Newton, because every Palm Pilot out there ever since could have been, and should have been, a Newton. But I digress . . . ). I was there when Apple circled the wagons in the mid-’90s, and I rode the crest of a victorious wave with the developments of the late ’90s. Apple’s hardware was never in doubt — it was always far superior than anything anyone else put out.

So my collection of hardware — with the exception of a G4 eMac that has been commandeered by my wife — has been of the beige and black variety: PowerBooks (1400, Wallstreet, a 160 somewhere in the house), a PowerMac 9500 with a Sonnet G3 upgrade and, the machine that I now use, a PowerMac G3 minitower, with G4 Sonnet upgrade and 544MB (2×256 plus a 32) RAM. Yes, they’re all old by computer standards, but they all work pretty damn well, and I challenge anyone to prove the same for a Wintel box or laptop of the same age.

That makes me an Old World guy in a New World world.

I bring this up because it seems that the Linux cards are stacked against Old World Macs, which is a pity because Macs tend to live forever. With Apple systematically abandoning its legacy hardware — another pity: Could you imagine General Motors forsaking the 1957 Chevrolet? — it’s not news, or a secret, that Linux developers would benefit from making Linux more available to those people with old Macs (I can’t speak for old PCs, but it’s probably the same situation, or not).

This is not to say it isn’t. I know it is. My PEBCAK exploits in trying to get Linux on my Wallstreet — not to mention the masochistic exercise of trying to put NuBus Linux on the PowerBook 1400c — are the stuff legends are made of. Between the utility of BootX and the zen of miBoot (which seems to hold the answer to the question: What is the sound of one disk clapping?), there has to be a better way of getting Linux on older Macs.

Or not.

Categories: Apple, linux, Macintosh, open source
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