PPCMLA Press Corps

PPCMLA Press Corps

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Archive for the ‘News & Commentary’ Category

Pizzamac LC

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Recalling the adventure of the P-P-P-PowerBook, an eBayer by the name of “solidus_mgs” has listed a rare Apple prototype Pizzamac LC. I won’t ruin the surprise for you, so you’ll just have to check out the auction for yourself!

No doubt eBay will remove this auction in short order, so when that happens, I’ve also printed the auction to a PDF (thank you OS X for your built-in print to PDF capability!) which I’ve attached to this post.


I Hate StuffIt Expander

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

[Update: New direct download link for Expander 2010]

Over the years, I have come to hate StuffIt Expander. But not because StuffIt Expander is bad software.

Back in the System 7 days, it was the only way to fly. Aladdin Systems made great compression & decompression utilities for the Macintosh. StuffIt Deluxe was a must-have tool for any Macintosh power user.

Because of the bizarre dual-fork file architecture employed by Apple where a resource fork carried icons, pictures, sounds, fonts, and other data used by an application or a file and a data fork carried the binary executable code or other binary data used by a file, simple compression utilities like zip programs were insufficient for fully capturing all the information contained in a Mac file. Many novice Mac users would learn the hard way that zipping up an application for use later would only result in terminal corruption of the file. The StuffIt suite of tools for Mac cleanly solved this problem by transparently archiving both the resource and data forks in the same StuffIt archive.

StuffIt Expander and DropStuff encoder were included with OS 9The software was easy to use. Just drag and drop the files or folders you wanted to archive onto the DropStuff icon to create an archive. Double click on an archive or drag it to Expander to decompress it. And it was as simple to obtain as it was to use. StuffIt Expander was blessed by Apple and included in all operating system releases as their tool of choice for compressing and decompressing files. If you wanted an updated version, you could visit the Aladdin page on the internet and download a new version.

But something happened when Apple transitioned to Mac OS X.

Files used in Mac OS X no longer required resource forks. Applications use special directory structures that through the magic of OS X appear as a single executable file to the end user. The need for a utility to compress resource forks and data forks into the same archive is no longer present. And at the same time, Apple introduced a new zip feature to the Finder in Mac OS X “Panther” v10.3 along the way that does, in fact, include resource forks in zip archives.Zip archives can be created natively in OS X since 10.3 Panther

In April of 2004, Aladdin Systems became a wholly owned subsidiary of International Microcomputer Software (IMSI), Inc. In July of that same year, Aladdin Systems was forced to change it’s name to Allume Systems as a condition of a trademark suit settlement with Aladdin Knowledge Systems. Not much changed, really. StuffIt was still StuffIt, and the website which now read “Allume” instead of “Aladdin” was otherwise familiar. And then in July of 2005, Allume Systems was sold to Smith Micro Software, Inc.

This time, Allume Systems branding all but disappeared. By the winter of 2008, the website became branded with Smith Micro logos and a variety of tools which have nothing in common with the StuffIt heritage. Anime and PC compatibility applications appear along side the familiar StuffIt suite.

Finally, when Apple released Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger”, the company stopped including StuffIt Expander with the operating system. Now, if you wanted to expand those old .sit files hanging around your hard drive from OS 9 days or that you still sometimes stumble across on the Internet, you have to download a copy of StuffIt Expander from Smith Micro’s website.

Starting sometime back in the latter OS 8 days or early OS 9 days, Aladdin Systems started making it difficult to obtain a copy of the free StuffIt Expander without revealing your name and email address. This was annoying, but there was almost no need to download anything from their website because Apple included a reasonably up-to-date copy of StuffIt Expander and the DropStuff encoder & archiver with the Mac OS. But since Apple stopped including StuffIt Expander with Mac OS X in Tiger, it has become necessary to download the software from Smith Micro every now and then.

And that is why I hate StuffIt Expander. It is not possible to obtain a copy through their website’s interface without providing Smith Micro with your personal email address. They email you the download link instead of making the link available on a confirmation page once you provide a (bogus) email address. And to make matters worse, by providing your real email address, you are agreeing to be spammed periodically with marketing email from Smith Micro! Sure, you can opt out of these emails once you download StuffIt Expander, but this sort of coercion is hostile and off-putting. For a software product with very limited utility and who’s days are numbered, it is incomprehensible to me that a company would require you to jump through this hoop to get access to their “gateway” free application (the rest of the StuffIt line is not free). Even worse, this information is not prominently displayed on the form but is instead listed in fineprint at the bottom of the StuffIt Expander page:

Please note: By confirming your email address and downloading this file, you are signing up to receive periodic followup emails from us. Any emails we send you will contain unsubscribe information, and you may opt-out of future emails at any time.

As a member of our email lists, you will not only be informed of every new product release, and upgrade, but you’ll be eligible for THE biggest savings on those releases, up to 75% off on some titles. These prices are not available on our web site or in retail stores. You will also receive amazing discounts on software from our many partners, like Nuance, Symantec, TrendMicro, Sonic, and Intuit to name a few.

Whitelist Our Email Addresses: Make Sure You Receive Important Emails Please add us to your email Address Book (Learn How) Check your bulk-mail folder if you don’t see our email in your inbox.

So join me in telling Smith Micro to stuff it. Download expander using this direct download link:

Update: You can obtain StuffIt Standard (which includes DropStuff) here: http://my.smithmicro.com/downloads/files/StuffItStandard2009.dmg


Green Apples: Energy Efficient Computing

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Apple’s Steve Jobs recently announced that Apple would be phasing out several hazardous chemicals from their products and manufacturing centers. This change was the result of significant pressure brought to bear by Greenpeace, and it is a commendable change for Apple. However, this change means nothing to someone who wants to make a change to improve the environment today.


Fortunately for you, if you are such a person, a PowerPC-based Mac may be just what is needed. It may be true that Apple’s switch to Intel processors affords the Mac user more processing power per Watt of electricity, but it is also true that the new Intel Macs suck down electricity like water over the Niagara Falls. Consider the specifications for the newest Mac Pro. These systems have a power supply which can provide a maximum current of 12A. At 120V, that 12A max current equates to a whopping 1440 Watts!


Granted, the typical user probably won’t be operating a Mac Pro at anywhere near it’s power supply’s maximum capacity. Still, the Xeon processor is rated at 65W (typical) to 80W (max), and the super high-end quad core Xeon may need 120W. Even the Core 2 Duo has a pretty high power dissipation and is rated not to exceed 35W.


Contrast that against the latest generation of G4 upgrades. The fastest G4 upgrades these days use the Motorola PowerPC 7447A or 7448. The 7447A dissipates a maximum cool 30W at 1.42 GHz. The 7448 dissipates an even cooler 10W at 1.4 GHz. Of course, these are all spec numbers for the CPU alone, and they aren’t a solid measurement of how much current you can expect to use with any given computer. And although the power supply specifications aren’t a perfectly reliable number, either, you can be assured you won’t exceed the maximum power rating on your Mac’s power supply…


A quick browse of the Apple specifications shows the following (in no particular order):

  • Mac Pro maximum wattage: 1440 W (1200 W according to AMUG)
  • iMac Core 2 Duo (“Late 2006”) max wattage: 180 W for 17″ and 20″ models, 220 W for 24″ model
  • MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo (“Late 2006”) max wattage: 85 W
  • MacBook (“Mid 2007”) max wattage: 60 W
  • PowerBook G4 1.67 GHz 17″: 65 W
  • iBook G4: 65 W
  • Mac mini Core Duo (“Late 2006”): 110 W
  • Mac mini 1.42 GHz G4: 85 W
  • Power Mac G5 max wattage: 1250 W for the last G5 with dual core CPUs, up to 600 W for earlier models
  • iMac G5 max wattage: 180 W for all models
  • Power Mac G4 “MDD” max wattage: up to 812 W by my reading of AppleSpec
  • Power Mac G4 “QuickSilver” max wattage: 360 W
  • iMac G4 max wattage: 190 W on the 20″ model
  • eMac (USB 2.0, 1.25 GHz G4): 230 W
  • Power Mac G4 Cube max wattage: 205 W
  • Power Mac G4 “Sawtooth” max wattage: 200 W
  • PowerBook G3 (all PowerBooks, in fact, from the 5300 to the “Pismo”) max wattage: 45W
  • Power Mac G3 B&W max wattage: 200 W (extrapolated from Power Mac G4 “Yikes!” with PCI graphics)
  • Power Mac G3 All-In-One max wattage: 300 W
  • Power Mac G3 minitower max wattage: 240 W
  • Power Mac G3 desktop max wattage: 230 W
  • Power Mac 9600 max wattage: 560 W
  • Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh: 140 W
  • Apple Studio Display 21 (21″ CRT): 180 W
  • Apple Cinema Display ADC (22″ LCD): 77 W (provided by host computer’s PSU)

So what is the point of all this? Apple is doing a great job cutting down on the toxic and hazardous materials used in Macs and during their construction. However, the most intractable environmental problem facing us today is not one of toxic cleanup that can be fixed by just spending a few extra dollars. Rather, there is a growing calamity threatening the whole world in the form of global climate change exacerbated by the excess production of greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a principle byproduct of power generation. Thus, by producing Macs which require higher amounts of electricity, Apple is in effect driving increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions.


One might argue that Apple’s contribution is a drop in the bucket when considering the worldwide production of greenhouse gasses. This may be true. But when the company proudly proclaims itself to be a greener company, the notion rings false in light of the increased power consumption of their products.


Many people are still unconvinced that global climate change is a problem. Many people probably don’t care. So for those of you for whom ecological ethics are not a concern, let your wallet be your guide.


As AMUG has been pointing out in their reviews lately, energy costs are becoming a significant portion of the expenses involved when operating a computer, and thus should factor in heavily in placing large orders for power-hungry computers. This fact probably hasn’t dawned on many home users as yet. But as time goes on, computers require more power, and the household energy bill starts to escalate, not only will the purchase cost of the computer be important, so too will be the cost of running the computer.


In this age of high-speed 24×7 internet connections, there is a tendency to leave the home computer on all the time. In my house, I pay about $0.04 per kWh. I own a 9600 (560 W) and a G4 “QuickSilver” (360 W) that I leave powered on all the time. Using the absolute worst case (and, I admit, completely unreasonable) power consumption numbers from the information above, I could pay up to $322 per year for those two computers alone.


Other than some Halo and Quake 3 from time to time, I don’t really have a need for all the computing muscle provided by the Digital Audio. Most of what I do (browse the web, write some email, even administer this website) can be done reasonable competently on a 500 MHz PowerBook G3 “Pismo”. If I consolidated my computers into a G3 laptop (45 W) and, say, a G4 cube with an ADC display (205 W), I could save up $235 to per year!


If you have a PowerPC Macintosh already, and your uses for your computer are web browsing, writing, watching movies, and some occaisional gaming, you can save considerable money by not upgrading to an Intel-based Mac. If you are environmentally or even fiscally conscious, avoiding the higher energy consumption Macs from Apple (of which the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro are probably the worst) is probably a wise thing to do. Instead, carefully consider your needs and the newest G4 upgrades. These new G4s require less power than the Intel chips, and they may just fit the bill for you.

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