Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue
As the world waits with bated breath for Tiger (4 more days!) and we put the finishing touches on our Take Control ebooks about Tiger, we managed to find the time for another beefy issue of TidBITS. Adam looks at NoteBook 2.0, Jeff Carlson examines a slew of Mac mini-related Web sites, Glenn Fleishman contributes a retrospective of the just-merged Adobe and Macromedia, and Matt Neuburg relates the story of how his iMac G5 went up in smoke.
Copyright 2005 TidBITS: Reuse governed by Creative Commons license
<http://www.tidbits.com/terms/> Contact: <email@example.com>
This issue of TidBITS sponsored in part by:
READERS LIKE YOU! Support TidBITS with a contribution today!
Special thanks this week to Chris Vallis, William Bruce Harris,
Charles Fleishman, and Karen Lindner for their kind support!
SMALL DOG ELECTRONICS: 12" iBook Bundles
with Extra RAM & 1 GB Flash: $999; with iPod mini: $999;
with AirPort Network, Case, RAM: $1029
Visit: <http://www.smalldog.com/tb/> 800-511-MACS
FETCH SOFTWORKS: Is maintaining your Web site tedious? Use
Fetch, the original Macintosh FTP client, and you can record
AppleScripts that automate repetitive uploads and downloads.
Get Fetch now at <http://fetchsoftworks.com/>!
Dr. Bott, LLC: TripNav + Route 66 = GPS mapping capabilities
for your mobile Mac. TripNav USB or TripNav Bluetooth connect
you to the GPS network, and Route 66 features complete maps of
the US or Europe. <http://www.drbott.com/>
Web Crossing, Inc: Site Crossing brings Web Crossing power to
your small biz, family or club. Build a core site or bolt onto
a current one for discussions, blogs, chat, polls, calendars,
podcasts, and more. <http://www.sitecrossing.com/tb-305>
Circus Ponies NoteBook: Never lose anything again. NoteBook
lets you take notes, clip content, and share information. Find
anything instantly with automatic index pages. One-step Web
publishing. Free 30-day demo! <http://www.circusponies.com/>
Awarded 4 mice by Macworld, Nisus Writer Express 2.1
is the writer's word processor that is both powerful
and easy to use. Use coupon code "TidBits" and receive
a $10.00 discount! <http://www.nisus.com/in/tidbits/>
PublicVPN.com: Protect yourself at public HotSpots.
Secure your WiFi connection with PublicVPN.com.
Easy, affordable, and secure.
Visit <http://www.publicvpn.com/> for more info.
Apple Releases Security and Java Updates -- Apple last week released Security Update 2005-004, a 1 MB download that replaces an iSync component that could be vulnerable to a buffer overflow. Also released was Java Update for Mac OS X 10.3.9, which solves a crashing problem with running Java applets that affected some users after they installed the Mac OS X 10.3.9 Update. The Java Update is a 1 MB download; both updates are also available via Software Update. [JLC]
Default Folder X 2.0 Supports Tiger -- Default Folder is the first piece of software I add to a Mac OS X system after I install the operating system. The fine people at St. Clair Software last week lived up to their excellent reputation for staying on top of system releases by pre-releasing Default Folder X 2.0 for Tiger 11 days before Tiger ships.
This update is critical: previous versions of Default Folder will not work under Tiger. I was bit by this a few times going back and forth between Jaguar and Panther. Make sure to install the new release under Panther (where it will work just fine) before you run an upgrade to Tiger. Default Folder X 2.0 is free for current registered users, and is a 4.7 MB download. [GF]
DealBITS Drawing: MaxSleeve and iProtect Winners -- Congratulations to Peggy Russell of kachergisbookdesign.com and Michael Bobek of mac.com, whose entries were chosen randomly in last week's DealBITS drawing and who each received a MaxSleeve and iProtect from MaxUpgrades, worth up to $38.98. Even if you didn't win, you can save 15 percent off a MaxSleeve and/or iProtect (and in fact your entire order other than shipping) by entering MXPROMODB1 in the Additional comments field when ordering; MaxUpgrades tells us that the discount will not show on order confirmations but will be accounted for in the amount billed. This offer is open to all TidBITS readers. Thanks to the 769 people who entered, 45 of whom entered after being referred to DealBITS. Keep an eye out for future DealBITS drawings. [ACE]
by Glenn Fleishman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
It's taken 20 years, but the graphics application industry is down to two remaining companies from the early days. Adobe announced its plan to acquire Macromedia last week in an all-stock transaction valued at $3.4 billion. The deal, if approved by both boards and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, gives Macromedia stockholders about 18 percent of Adobe.
When the Macintosh was launched, four companies quickly took over the graphics program field: Adobe, Aldus, MacroMind, and Quark. Each had its strengths. Adobe was the typographic and vector giant. Aldus and Quark each had page-layout programs that boasted legions of adherents from practically the first opening of the boxes' shrinkwrap. And MacroMind had multimedia authoring tools.
Web Design Dominance -- In 1992, MacroMind merged with Authorware to become Macromedia. In 1995, it bought Altsys, makers of Aldus FreeHand (more on that in a moment) and Altsys Fontographer. Macromedia introduced its Web page editing program Dreamweaver in 1998, and subsequently beefed it up with two acquisitions: in 1999, it purchased Andromedia, a Web traffic analysis firm, and in 2001 bought Allaire, the firm behind the Cold Fusion scripting language.
Macromedia's combination of scripting and interactivity led it to dominance in the Web-based player world. Shockwave and Flash have become de facto standards for vector-based interactive presentations. Despite many efforts, no other serious competitors have materialized.
Likewise, Macromedia's integration of Cold Fusion and ASP into Dreamweaver cemented its ownership of the graphical Web site market. The tied-in scripting and database support drove Dreamweaver's adoption over Adobe GoLive, formerly CyberStudio, which Adobe had bought from the German firm GoLive, Inc.
Print Design Turf Wars -- During the time that MacroMind was taking over the interactive and Web authoring world, Aldus and Adobe became dominant in page layout, illustration, and image editing.
Aldus had built a large suite of products, starting with PageMaker, by adding FreeHand (produced by Altsys under license to Aldus), Persuasion (arguably the best presentation software of its day), SuperPaint, and IntelliDraw.
Adobe started with fonts and PostScript, and launched Illustrator for vector-based illustration, which was always in close feature competition with FreeHand. But Adobe's juggernaut was Photoshop, which came out in 1990. Photoshop emerged from work by two genius brothers, one at Industrial Light and Magic and the other at graduate school in Ann Arbor, MI. It was an immediate success, destroying its fine competitor Fractal Design ColorStudio.
With Photoshop, Illustrator, fonts, and PostScript licensing driving sales, Adobe became an ever-larger company, and finally made an offer to Aldus to merge in 1994. The merger required the spin-off of Aldus FreeHand with the rights reverting back to Altsys; Altsys resold those rights to Macromedia the following year.
Acrobat grew from being a footnote when Adobe first introduced it - with per-seat pricing for every user - to become the world's only real document interchange format that retains the look and feel of original documents. Even Microsoft has been unable to compete effectively with Acrobat, which is saying something.
Adobe later acquired Frame, the third remaining page-layout program developer, and introduced InDesign as the successor to PageMaker, which had grown long in the tooth and was being handily beat by QuarkXPress.
A New Competitive Landscape -- Now we've reached the end of the path. Adobe's competitors now aren't Quark or Viewpoint (formerly MetaCreations, and other names before that), but rather Apple and Microsoft. While striving to release software that works on both Windows and the Mac OS, they're being battered at the top by Apple's professional video tools and at the bottom by Microsoft's and Apple's home layout and photo tools.
To achieve the scale to compete against operating system vendors, Adobe's purchase of Macromedia makes perfect sense and probably won't raise anti-trust flags. The two companies have almost as small an overlap as when Aldus and Adobe merged, which resulted in Adobe unloading FreeHand to Macromedia. Macromedia's Dreamweaver will certainly supplant GoLive, but it will take some time to integrate Dreamweaver fully into Creative Suite. With Creative Suite 2 just shipping, I expect Creative Suite 3 will see full Dreamweaver integration with interim plug-ins implementing some of the GoLive CS2 features.
FreeHand and Illustrator find themselves at odds once again, but it's again likely that FreeHand will be the loser in the battle. Although still supported, it has been a less and less important part of Macromedia's offerings, while Illustrator has stayed front and center for Adobe.
Overall, this could be a win for graphics professionals because it will mean more consistent pricing and more integration across tools they already use. Most Web designers already have to use Flash, Director and Shockwave, Illustrator or FreeHand, InDesign, and Dreamweaver. It's just a natural progression that one company offers these all in one place.
I said at the outset only two companies remain. Obviously, Adobe is one, with what will top $2 billion in revenue between it and the former Macromedia. The other is Quark, Inc., a company that started with its flagship QuarkXPress product two years after Aldus released PageMaker.
Quark has tried to release products other than those focused on page layout over the years, like Quark Immedia, an odd multimedia authoring application, or an image-editing program licensed from a Japanese firm that they could never quite push out the door. Quark is privately held and their financial state is unknown, although it's generally been perceived over the years as massively profitable.
The future is clearly about a very small number of graphics developers with integrated applications - integrated together like the iLife suite or the Creative Suite or Microsoft Office. With the purchase of Macromedia, Adobe has taken a large step towards trying to preserve its multi-platform role in setting the pace for the graphics world.
by Jeff Carlson <email@example.com>
Looking at the Mac mini's technical specifications alone, the computer sits firmly in the middle of Apple's computer offerings - it's essentially an eMac without the monitor, keyboard, or mouse. What's notable about the mini is its physical size, a diminutive rectangle only slightly larger than most external hard drives.
Interestingly, that small size has become a large canvas where people are projecting their imaginations about what the Mac mini could be. With its small footprint, the Mac mini is more welcome in the living room, passing the "spouse test" of being a discreet media device without looking like a, well, computer. It's also found a home in automobiles, where enthusiasts want access to music and video (for passengers, hopefully) without spending a fortune on dedicated components.
Oh, and then there's the price: the stock Mac mini costs $500, which is apparently wooing non-Mac users to the Mac OS X platform.
These factors have led to an unexpected surge of Web sites dedicated to the Mac mini. Obviously, some of what's at play is the phenomenon of catching something insanely popular at the ground level, but not since the original iMac has there been so much interest in an otherwise unremarkable computer.
I recently went looking for Mac mini-themed sites to see what was propelling so much activity and to answer the question: does an explosion of niche Web sites promise success for a product, or is it gold rush opportunism? Time will tell, of course, but in the meantime it makes for an interesting trip.
News and Information -- The site that started my exploration, Modmini.com, was created by Robert Cassidy and frequent TidBITS contributor Andrew Laurence. Despite its name, the site so far isn't focused as much on mods (modifications) in the same sense that others are (for example, Mac minis embedded into old iMac or even Centris cases). Instead, it tackles practical considerations such as setting up the mini as a DVD jukebox (with movies stored on the hard drive) and adding AirPort and Bluetooth - both build-to-order items - after receiving the Mac mini.
If you're looking for more of a daily news and information site, 123Macmini.com and BYODKM.net (Bring Your Own Display, Keyboard, and Mouse ) provide ongoing doses of news (Mac mini-related product releases, as well as general Mac OS news) and reviews. They both also offer discussion forums where people can swap stories, tips, and ask the instantly age-old question: "Mac mini or [insert name of any computer here]???"
Home Theater -- The Mac mini quickly became the low-cost, low-profile computer of choice to anchor the digital hub, and several sites have sprung up with information specific to building a media center. MacHTPC, HTmini.com, and Home Theater Mac provide news and reviews with a slant toward using the Mac mini as a home theater, plus general Mac news where applicable.
Also noteworthy is the CenterStage project, which isn't necessarily tied to the Mac mini, but it was inspired by the tiny Mac. CenterStage is an open-source project for developing a home theater environment running on the Mac that can be run from a remote control (think TiVo with all the features you really want). Development is still in its early stages, but a 0.1 alpha version is available for download.
If you sometimes feel as if your car is your home, be sure to check out MacVroom, where you can "Mac your ride" with Mac mini car integration. MacVroom is all over the efforts to put Mac minis in cars, including information on working with small-size LCD screens, alternative power supplies, and more.
Mac mini Community -- All of the sites mentioned above include discussion forums or weblog-style comment features, but two sites have been set up solely for the purpose of hosting online communities of Mac mini owners and enthusiasts. Macminiforums includes forums on using, troubleshooting, and modifying Mac minis, as well as classified ads. MacminiCenter is a community-contributed Mac mini wiki (which is just fun to say out loud three times) with information and links to specific hardware (such as LCD projectors), software, and other categories.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A few weeks back, Circus Ponies released version 2.0 of their elegant note-taking and snippet-keeping application NoteBook, significantly improving the program in key areas. The upgrade reportedly adds over 150 features and is available for free to existing owners, although you do have to upgrade your license code to mesh with a new licensing system.
As I wrote in "The Well-Worn NoteBook" back in TidBITS-745, I've become a devoted user of NoteBook for to-do lists, recording steps in complex processes, keeping snippets of information from email or the Web for research, and for eliminating all those little pieces of paper that breed in the dark recesses of my desk. My basic uses for NoteBook haven't changed, nor has its basic approach, so reading my previous article will give you a more full impression of the program.
Contents Card -- With NoteBook 2.0, some of my uses have become more fluid thanks to new features. Most notable is a new Contents Card, which is a thin drawer-like element that provides an always-visible view of the table of contents of your notebook file. That may seem like a small change, but in fact it's tremendously helpful because it lets you keep an outline of your notebook's contents in sight while you're working. Plus, you can move items between pages by dragging to the appropriate spot on the Contents Card. I find myself using the Contents Card constantly. The main improvement I'd still like to see with regard to seeing more content simultaneously is the capability to show two independent pages at the same time; something that fits in nicely with the physical notebook metaphor.
To Do Items Index -- Since I last wrote about NoteBook, I've changed my style of handling to-do items, thanks in large part to reading David Allen's "Getting Things Done" book. Before, I was tracking to-do items with a page for each week, and an outline heading for each day. Although that worked fairly well, I was starting to learn how to ignore items in the list, so each day was filling up with items I stood no chance of doing. In the Getting Things Done model, the goal is to come up with the next action in any given project, and to categorize them not by project, but by context: calls, email, writing, errands, and so on. The idea is that then, when you sit down to do work, you can look at what's on the list for that context and pick out something to do that makes sense with the time and energy available. Obviously, the overall approach is more complicated than that, but it's working well for both Tonya and me, and I've changed how I handle to-do lists in NoteBook accordingly.
Now I have a section of my Notebook file with a page for each context I'm trying to track, and a set of action items on that page. I also have agenda pages for each of the people I work with regularly so I don't forget things that need discussing. Nothing in that wasn't possible in previous versions of NoteBook, but since the NoteBook folks have also been reading "Getting Things Done," there are some new features that help out with such organization. Most notable is a To Do Items Index, an automatically generated page that collects all your action items (lines to which you've assigned a checkbox) and shows them in two sets: incomplete and completed. It's a great overview of all the action items spread across all my contexts; something the Getting Things Done model would suggest you should review every Friday to make sure you're not falling behind on some project.
Sorting, Linking, and More -- Another area where NoteBook 2.0 has improved is in sorting; you can now create sorts and have them applied automatically. I've had some trouble getting this feature to work as I'd like; auto-sorting seems a bit finicky at the moment, but when it works, it's a great way to organize action items on a page by whether or not they're completed and when they were last modified.
I've also taken to doing a bit more linking, now that NoteBook 2.0 can create links not just between pages, but between cells. For people who use multiple NoteBook files, you can even link to cells in other files.
Clippings now include a lot more metadata related to the clipping source, so you can easily determine the application from which the clip originally came, and if it came from Apple Mail, the item is automatically linked to the sender's Address Book entry, if present.
There are a slew of other features that I haven't yet had an excuse to use. Integration with Apple's bundled applications (none of which I use, unfortunately for this context) has improved greatly, so you can easily link to contacts in Address Book and initiate iChat sessions or email messages in Mail directly from NoteBook. NoteBook can also generate alarms in iCal for action items that have due dates; it's a nice way to gain alarm capability without writing yet another reminder system. For those who like toolbars, there's now a completely customizable toolbar that can appear at the bottom of your NoteBook window; the main thing I like about it is the breadcrumb display of your current location. The Voice Annotation feature now enables you to record lengthy sessions, adding notes at relevant points. You can send voice annotations to iTunes for listening or for downloading to an iPod. And speaking of iPods, you can even send a NoteBook outline to your iPod for viewing using the normal iPod interface. HTML export has improved, making it easy to create full NoteBook-generated Web sites, complete with internal navigation.
With some pieces of software, I immediately think of features to request, and apart from the double-page view, that's not happening with NoteBook. In fact, it's the reverse. I'm always a little depressed when I see, in the process of writing about a piece of software, how much of it I haven't yet delved into, especially in a program I use daily like NoteBook. But on the bright side, it also means that there's always more to learn. The hard part is remembering that the features exist when a need arises. Perhaps I'll have to devote a page in NoteBook to features in programs that I don't need now, but which might be useful in the future.
NoteBook 2.0 costs $50 for new customers; upgrades for existing customers are free. Educational and volume discounts are available, as is a free 30-day demo version. The program requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later.
by Matt Neuburg <email@example.com>
This is the story of how my iMac G5 joined the legion of machines that recently have spontaneously failed, and how the problem was resolved.
I purchased my 20-inch iMac G5 at the end of November, and was deliriously happy with it from the start. It crunches numbers in sprightly fashion, runs GarageBand without hiccupping, and even scrolls Microsoft Word documents fairly quickly. It writes DVDs. It has a huge hard disk. The screen displays two full pages of text and is drop-dead gorgeous; it feels worth the price of the entire computer. And then of course there's the astounding form factor: in essence, the computer consists solely of a two-inch-thick monitor, with all the works inside it.
Even before my purchase, I had been hanging out on Apple's discussions boards, where I proceeded to acquire quite an education. For example, I learned that the iMac G5's bus throughput is faster if RAM is installed in matched pairs; therefore I replaced the stock 256 MB of RAM with two 512 MB sticks early in the game. Removing the iMac G5's back cover and installing the RAM was astonishingly easy. Indeed, one of this model's most remarkable features is that it is highly user-repairable. Four internal LEDs assist in diagnosis, and the parts are so ingeniously arranged and connected that, if need be, the user can easily replace the hard drive, the optical drive, the power supply, the inverter, the display, and even the midplane (essentially a sheet of metal to which everything else is attached - replacing the midplane replaces the logic board and fans, and involves removing all the other user-serviceable parts).
Intimations of Mortality -- About a month ago I started seeing anecdotal reports, on Apple's discussion boards and elsewhere, that repeated in essence an identical story: iMac G5 users would notice that the machine was giving off an acrid smell, like plastic melting or tires burning, and shortly thereafter the machine would fail. I made a mental note, but I also thought, "This can never happen to me."
But of course it did. On Tuesday, 29-Mar-05, the iMac gave off an ominous smell. It was a foul, slightly nauseating smell, rather like burnt tires; I had to open all the windows just to remain in the room. The fact that I was prepared by the similar reports from other users was suddenly useful. I expected the computer to fail soon, but at that moment it was still running, so I immediately backed it up, twice - once to four DVDs, and again by synchronizing it with my trusty iBook G3/600 that sits in the living room, hooked up to the stereo system. I also ran the Apple Hardware Test (by starting up from a special CD that comes with the computer), and the computer passed all the tests. The next day, Wednesday, the iMac was still running in the morning. I went out to lunch with some friends, and when I returned in the afternoon, the iMac was in a deep sleep from which I could not wake it. I shut it down and couldn't start it up again.
A Doctor in the House -- My first response was (using the iBook) to go onto Apple's iMac G5 support page, where a link leads to a sequence of pages that act as a diagnostic assistant. These pages guided me through an analysis of the situation. At each step, you're presented with a set of choices or questions or instructions, and so you proceed, page by page, to a solution.
The assistant elicited from me that the computer was not powering up, that there was no chime, and that the power outlet at the wall was working. It told me to remove the iMac's back cover, plug in the power cord, and examine the four internal LEDs. If the first LED had been off, this would mean I needed a new power supply. But the first LED was on, so the assistant told me to press the internal power button, and then the System Management Unit reset button, to see if the computer would power on. It didn't. The assistant gave its final diagnosis: the mid-plane needed replacing.
(Incidentally, this series of diagnostic Web pages is both instructional and entertaining. You can learn a lot about your computer just by pursuing an imaginary scenario. For instance, if my computer had started up when I pressed the internal power button, but would not start up when the back cover was replaced, the diagnosis would have been that I needed a new back cover.)
On the last page of the diagnosis, I encountered a pleasant surprise - a link leading seamlessly into the ordering of a new midplane. It looked as though I would solve this entire problem without ever directly contacting a human being. I clicked the link, provided the computer's serial number, and ordered the midplane. You have to supply a credit card number to be charged in case you fail to return the original midplane, but if all goes according to plan, since the computer is under warranty, the entire operation is free. Apple pays for the midplane itself, for shipping the new midplane to you, and for shipping the old midplane back in the same carton (by means of a second label, self-addressed and pre-paid, underneath the carton's label addressed to you).
Thus, although somewhat disturbed that my computer had failed, I went to bed feeling that Apple's system for handling the situation was commendably efficient.
Second Thoughts -- The next day I woke up and started to worry. I was remembering some more of what I'd read in the user reports on the Internet about various spontaneous failures. Some users had described swollen capacitors, and there was some expert explanation on MacInTouch and elsewhere of how a batch of capacitors with a bad electrolytic formula had been manufactured through industrial espionage, and why this might cause them to swell. But I had seen nothing wrong with any capacitors. Furthermore, those who reported the capacitor problem were also generally reporting flickering displays, along with failure of the Apple Hardware Test, which my computer had passed.
In addition, those who talked about the smell nearly always mentioned the power supply. Some seemed to be saying that replacement of the midplane alone had not helped. Others, in fact, seemed to be saying that replacement of the power supply had been sufficient. My hunch was that there might be two different problems, one involving capacitors, another involving the power supply; I might, I feared, have been misled by my memory of the capacitor stories into accepting the diagnosis that the midplane was at fault, whereas the real problem might be the power supply. As a further complication, some users seemed to be reporting that the failure of the power supply might take down the midplane as well, perhaps simply because soot from the burning power supply is blown into the midplane. In any case, despite the online diagnosis with the internal LEDs, I was no longer confident that replacing the midplane would solve the problem, and I decided to contact Apple directly.
Phone Tag -- Getting through to Apple by phone turned out to be no easy task. Whenever I tried, I got a busy signal. I thought perhaps I was calling out of hours, but no hours are posted on Apple's Web site (as far as I could find), so I couldn't be sure. Thus it was Friday before I finally got through to a human being at Apple. I started by routing myself through the voicemail system to a customer service person who might be able to tell me the status of the mid-plane order, which I had not been able to learn from Apple's support Web pages. She was very nice, but she couldn't give me any information, which I found odd. She then transferred me, not without some difficulty, to a technical support person.
At this point the story turned positive again. I had described the situation a little to the customer service person, and it seems she had passed this information on to the technical support person before he came on the line. Thus when he picked up the phone he was completely ready to deal with the problem. He seemed to know all about these iMac G5 failures, and I had the sense that he really didn't need to listen to my story at all, but was just waiting for me to stop talking so that he could tell me the answer he'd been prepared with all along. My hunch was absolutely right: the power supply was probably working well enough to light the internal LED but not well enough to power up the computer, and he'd have a new power supply sent right out. He took my credit card information again; this was all he needed, since he already had my computer's serial number and, through it, my address.
Now began a waiting game. During the weekend nothing happened. On Monday, much to my surprise, the midplane arrived; it was lucky I was home, as a signature was required. But I didn't open it, because it was sealed with a piece of tape that read, "Don't break seal unless using parts." Well, I wouldn't know whether I'd be replacing the midplane until I saw whether replacing the power supply fixed the problem; and I didn't want to give the impression that I'd used the replacement midplane if I hadn't.
On Tuesday and Wednesday the power supply didn't arrive, and I was getting nervous. I was particularly distressed by the fact that although I could see on Apple's support Web pages that the order for the power supply had been entered, those pages provided no further information. You'd expect that, like Amazon and similar operations, when the part shipped, that fact would be noted, perhaps along with a tracking number so you could estimate the time of arrival; but no such information was forthcoming. I regard this as a flaw in Apple's fulfillment system.
So early Wednesday afternoon I tried again to phone Apple. Getting through was nearly impossible. I was on hold in the voicemail system for 45 minutes and then, just as it seemed I was about to speak to a real human being, I was disconnected. I phoned back and waited another 45 minutes. But at last I did speak to someone, and after begging him not to disconnect me, I found that he was able to tell me exactly what I wanted to know: the power supply had not shipped, it would ship that same day, and he had a tracking number for me.
Anticlimax and Afterthoughts -- There was a simple, quick, and happy ending. The power supply arrived the next day (Thursday). It took about five minutes to replace it; a practiced hand could have done it in two, as the attachment and cabling of the power supply on the midplane are ingeniously designed to make it easy. (Apple supplied a printed version of the replacement instructions, and had even sent along a Phillips-head screwdriver.) I put the back cover onto the computer, plugged in the power cord, pressed the button, and after a heart-stopping pause it started right up. I ran DiskWarrior, just in case the spontaneous shutdown had caused any damage to the hard disk's directory structure (there didn't seem to be any), and synchronized once again with the iBook G3, which had been valiantly serving as my primary computer for a week. Everything was now as it had been before.
I handed the two boxes - one containing the used power supply, the other containing the unused midplane - back into the DHL system for pre-paid return to Apple. The question of that midplane caused me some misgivings; perhaps, I thought, as long as I've got it I should install it. But I didn't; my old midplane seems to be working fine, and if it, too, is going to fail, I'll just have to wait for that to happen and deal with the problem then. Logical considerations must prevail over emotion; being without the computer for a week and a half had been wrenching and I wanted to avoid having this happen again, but when all's said and done I had no evidence that it would happen again if I didn't replace the midplane - or, for that matter, that it wouldn't if I did.
Indeed, the tentacles of irrational emotion remain insinuated into my thought processes: it's hard, in the aftermath, to separate fact from fantasy. I regard the iMac G5 with a certain mistrust. I back it up daily instead of weekly. I sniff the air for traces of that ominous smell. I tend to shut down the computer when I leave the house, instead of putting it to sleep (because it was asleep when the smell started, and because if the power isn't on, the power supply can't burn out). But of course none of that makes rational sense: there isn't the slightest evidence that the computer isn't good as new, and the mistrust can be expected to fade away over time as the iMac continues to function normally.
Response and Responsibility -- What are the implications of this little adventure for Apple Computer, Inc.? From my personal perspective, it was Apple's own discussion groups that apprised me in advance of the possible impending danger; that's good. On the other hand, the online diagnostic tool, though comforting, gave the wrong answer; at the height of the crisis, Apple was vexingly difficult to reach by phone; parts did not ship very promptly, and shipping dates and tracking numbers were not provided on the Web.
More broadly, how widespread are these failures, and what are they costing Apple? In its recent financial results conference call, Apple made no mention of such incidents, and gave no hint that its bottom line was being adversely affected. This might be disingenuously creative bookkeeping, but perhaps the number of failed iMac G5s is really not that large, or perhaps, even if it is, the costs of replacement and dealing with the public is insignificant in comparison with Apple's overall profits. Since all reports are anecdotal, and since failures are vastly more likely than non-failures to be reported on the discussion groups, it is impossible even to guess what percentage of iMac G5s are spontaneously expiring. Still, one user described an 18 percent failure rate in his shop; another said that the Genius Bar minder at the local Apple store spoke of five similar failures having been brought in that week; a CompUSA employee has seen 20-odd failed machines in the last couple of months. MacInTouch continues to reflect a steady stream of failures. Apple must know far more about the problem than it is telling, and one wishes that they would just come clean and reveal it: "Here's what went wrong, here's what we are doing about it, here's what we have learned, here are the chances are of your computer failing, here's what will happen if it does." That, however, will almost certainly not happen.
by Adam C. Engst <firstname.lastname@example.org>
We're completely on track to release all four of our Tiger titles simultaneously with Tiger itself, and we've come up with yet another reason to upgrade - by getting one of the ebooks for free.
"Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger" Free with Tiger Purchase -- It's a safe bet that almost everyone who buys "Take Control of Upgrading to Tiger" will also be ordering Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger itself. So why not get the ebook for free? All you have to do is pre-order the ebook, click the Check for Updates button in your pre-order copy to find a coupon code worth $5 off at Small Dog Electronics, and then use the coupon when you buy Tiger from Small Dog. They'll even throw in some Vermont maple syrup (in a bottle, presumably)!
by TidBITS Staff <email@example.com>
The second URL below each thread description points to the discussion on our Web Crossing server, which will be faster.
Maybe the World is Changing... -- Readers note that retail Apple Stores are getting significant traffic, even in locations where larger nearby businesses are seeing fewer customers. (17 messages)
An FM Transmitting Monster -- Geoffrey Bronner's review of the Monster iCarPlay prompts a reader's hands-on experience with the FM transmitter. (1 message)
Broadband Update Bigotry -- The most recent Mac OS X updates are tens of megabytes in size, making it difficult for people on dial-up Internet connections to keep their software current. (36 messages)
10.3.9 and Safari -- The latest Mac OS X update includes Safari 1.3, which has introduced problems on some systems. (12 messages)
Web site caching software -- A reader wants to store copies of Web sites on his computer, and receives several software suggestions. (5 messages)
Cheap Wireless Headphone Solution -- Instead of spending big bucks for a set of Bluetooth wireless headphones, a reader proposes an FM transmitter and FM stereo headphones for much less money. (2 messages)
iMovie 5.0.2 update -- Apple's latest iMovie update fixes some nagging bugs, but others remain. Matti Haveri provides a rundown of issues. (1 message)
Forced to use Microsoft OS to get and submit Federal grants -- A U.S. government contractor requires Windows to work with federal grants, so what does this mean for Mac users? PC emulation software, or an escalation to members of Congress? (4 messages)
Non-profit, non-commercial publications and Web sites may reprint or link to articles if full credit is given. Others please contact us. We do not guarantee accuracy of articles. Caveat lector. Publication, product, and company names may be registered trademarks of their companies. TidBITS ISSN 1090-7017.
Previous Issue | Search TidBITS | TidBITS Home Page | Next Issue