News abounds in this issue, with Apple again rescheduling WWDC and TidBITS Publisher Adam Engst receiving a fellowship at Cornell University. New products include heat-resistant Handeze gloves, a clever anti-flaming plug-in for iChat, a Keynote-compatible Canon PowerShot camera, the iPodPowerMate, and a kid-sized Segway. Adam also looks at a new add-on product for the Xserve, Tonya breaks some welcome news about Word 5.1, and we interview someone whose voice will be familiar to all Macintosh owners.
Apple Reschedules WWDC Yet Again — In a move that will no doubt cause even more consternation, Apple today announced that it has again rescheduled the upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference, this time to coincide with the new Create conference that replaced Macworld Expo from 14-Jul-03 through 18-Jul-03. Ron Okamoto, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations, said, "Between our discussions with the MacHack organizing committee and the just-announced availability of room at the Create conference in New York City, this move became the obvious best choice for both Apple and the Macintosh developer community." As before, the Apple Developer Connection will offer help for those who have already rejiggered their airplane and hotel reservations to match Apple’s previous choice for the WWDC venue – San Francisco in June.
Overall, the move makes a lot of sense, since even Macworld Expo has been incapable of filling the cavernous halls of New York City’s Javits Convention Center, and it’s unlikely that Create will draw nearly as many attendees. That means there’s plenty of unused room, and Apple was probably able to negotiate a good deal on the space. Though New York isn’t cheap, combining two conferences into one may save significant amounts of money for companies that would have to attend both WWDC and Create. And, of course, now Create will get a Steve Jobs keynote and the accompanying product introductions that ensure that Macworld Expos are never dull. [ACE]
New Handeze Gloves for Aluminum PowerBook G4s — I’ve long recommended Handeze gloves for reducing repetitive stress injuries in the hands and wrists (see "Handeze Gloves" in TidBITS-199). The fingerless gloves, made of a special kind of Lycra, keep my hands warm and nimble, and the slight pressure seems to improve circulation. RH Sales, the makers of Handeze, have produced a next-generation version designed specifically for newer and hotter laptops, like the aluminum PowerBook G4s introduced at Macworld this year. The $25 Asbesteze gloves use a combination of Lycra and heat-resistant fibers to keep palms and wrists from becoming too hot (which can exacerbate inflammation) when resting on the aluminum PowerBooks. Macworld magazine recently reported that the PowerBooks could reach 102 degrees F (39 degrees C); a test probe inside the Asbesteze gloves showed a comfortable 91 degrees F (33 degrees C), which is the normal temperature of human skin. RH Sales told us that they’re researching a follow-up product to protect laps from overheating from the backside of the PowerBook, a product they jokingly called "Asbestass." Given the painful (and embarrassing) groin injuries sustained last year by a Swedish scientist from his laptop, it might be a hot seller. [GF]
iPodPowerMate Unveiled — Extending its successful line of well-designed computing accessories, Griffin Technologies today announced the iPodPowerMate, a hardware multimedia controller specially created for the iPod (see "Unleashing the Power of the PowerMate" in TidBITS-653). It shares the same smooth chrome finish as the company’s original PowerMate, but in a smaller size that’s more appropriate to accentuate the iPod. Now you can have two round controllers to control your music. "We love Apple’s fantastic design for the iPod, but didn’t think the scroll wheel was dynamic enough," said Griffin’s Andrew Green. "If your iPod is going to pump out some rockin’ music, you need a big shiny knob to do it right!"
The iPodPowerMate can rest on any flat surface, and connects to the iPod via a FireWire cable. What separates it from the PowerMate, though, is an ingenious mounting kit that lets you attach the iPodPowerMate directly to the iPod’s scroll wheel. Another quirky addition is the use of its built-in LED, which boasts five different colors: red, white, blue, green, and amber. While the PowerMate can brighten or dim based on the Mac’s volume level, or even throb at a constant rate, the iPodPowerMate, thanks to the FireWire interface, can dynamically pulse and cycle through colors according to the beat of the music, much like an iTunes visualizer. Power up your iPod, turn off the lights, and let the party begin! [JLC]
"Chili Pepper" iChat Plug-in Released — Shareware developer Susan Valencia has released a plug-in for iChat that emulates Eudora’s popular MoodWatch feature to iChat users who have Eudora installed (whether or not it’s the default email client). With ChiliChat 1.0 working inside iChat, you can gauge if your instant messages will potentially be offensive by noting the number of chili pepper icons that appear above the text input field as you type (you can see a screenshot at the second link below). The plug-in is a free 23K download and currently works only with iChat. If ChiliChat garners enough interest, Valencia says she’ll consider making it available for other instant messaging software on the Mac. [JLC]
Canon PowerShot Keynote S250 — Be careful what you suggest! After I wrote about how I transferred Keynote slides to my Canon PowerShot S100 camera for display on a standard television in "The PowerShot Presentation" in TidBITS-669, I was amused to learn that Canon plans to release a new member of the diminutive PowerShot camera family that boasts direct integration with a forthcoming release of Apple’s Keynote presentation program. Obviously, the camera doesn’t need much in the way of changes to be able to play slides on a TV or projector with RCA plugs, and in fact, the main difference is that when the camera is in presentation mode, switching from one picture to the next honors transitions developed in Keynote. Also, the camera knows not to power down automatically when it’s in presentation mode, although it does turn off its LCD display to save power. Keynote 1.1 and iSync 1.1 will be required; Apple should be announcing them today. [ACE]
TidBITS Publisher Awarded Fellowship — Cornell University today awarded TidBITS Publisher Adam C. Engst a fellowship in the university’s interdisciplinary Information Science program. Engst’s mission, along with continuing his long-standing work on TidBITS and innovative experiments like PayBITS, will be to explore past and future trends in electronic publishing, looking at the many different ways individuals and organizations publish. He will be giving guest lectures in a number of courses and will be working with graduate and advanced undergraduate students to create a variety of electronic publications throughout the university. "There’s no one ‘right’ way to publish electronically," Engst said. "For some situations, a moderated mailing list with Web archives or a shared wiki is what’s needed. For others an archived weblog is the perfect snapshot of a point in time, something I’ll be examining in association with Cornell’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, which has amassed numerous student scrapbooks from years past."
The move is widely seen as yet another salvo in the rivalry between Cornell and Harvard University. Harvard recently gave software developer Dave Winer a fellowship at the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society to, as CNET’s Paul Festa wrote in an interview with Winer, "instruct Harvard students and faculty in the art of posting daily dispatches to the Web." Cornell’s Charlie Fay, associate provost for Research Administration, said "This is how universities interact. First we beat Harvard in the ECAC hockey championships in overtime, and now, with Adam Engst, we’ve found someone who has been pushing the boundaries of electronic publishing longer than anyone else – nearly 14 years. Plus, he’s a Cornell alum and did his early work as a student at Cornell in the late 1980s." Engst’s undergraduate degree was in Hypertextual Fiction, which he developed while in Cornell’s College Scholar program and while majoring in Classics. [GD]
Segway for Kids Introduced — Although introduced with much fanfare, the Segway Human Transporter (HT) has enjoyed only minimal success in the marketplace. Part of the problem, some analysts believe, is the device’s lack of easy classification: is it something to ride to work or for fun on the weekends, or is it better suited for postal carriers and other vertical markets? Many people seem to want one, but not many can tell you what they want one for. Now, however, inventor Dean Kamen is about to quell such questioning. A spokesperson for Segway explained, "We discovered that adults who have settled into traditional means of transportation haven’t entirely grasped the concept of a personal transporter. But those same people’s kids are crazy about it, and better yet, parents love anything that lets them avoid schlepping their kids around all the time."
Today the company announced the Segway Kids Interactive Transporter (KIT), more commonly referred to as the "Segwee." Proportioned to fit smaller humans (but adjustable to account for fast growth), the Segwee sports two oversized nubby wheels and the same gyroscope-directed motion system. In a surprise move, the Segwee actually travels faster than its adult counterpart. "Not only do kids have less fear of falling," said the Segway spokesperson, "we discovered in our testing that they possess much more control at higher speeds." She went on to explain that the Segwee could potentially improve a child’s balance, coordination, and response rates, though she quickly admitted that she had no hard data to support those claims. Thanks to lower component costs and manufacturing economies, the Segwee will be priced much lower than the Segway HT: $2,000 versus $5,000. When the Segwee becomes available in early 2004, Segway expects it to outperform the slow-selling Segway HT thanks to its lower cost and the increasing number of children whose bus routes are being cut in an era of sharply reduced school budgets. [JLC]
If you’ve ever been in a serious data center like the one where our servers reside at digital.forest, you know that all data centers share two features:
They’re loud. Running several hundred computers in a single room puts out plenty of noise, but more of the auditory attack comes from the massive air conditioning units necessary to keep all those computers sufficiently cool. It’s not as bad as standing near a jet engine, but there’s a reason the network administrators generally work in other rooms.
They’re clean. Data centers may not be as spotless as the clean rooms used by hard drive manufacturers, but dust buildup can cause hardware failures so there’s plenty of incentive to keep things clean. Those air conditioning units do double duty – they filter out crud in the air while dropping the temperature.
The noise of data centers is one reason Apple didn’t worry too much about the noise emitted by the powerful fans in the rack-mounted Xserve server – the Xserve simply adds to the din. Even though the latest revision of the Xserve is reportedly a bit quieter, it’s still louder than you probably want for your office, and those using the new Xserves for audio and video processing will probably still want to keep them in (properly ventilated!) soundproofed cabinets.
However, thanks to a small startup company called MacHEPA, Xserves can do more than just serve files and Web pages. Pop one or more of MacHEPA’s patent-pending HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters into an Xserve’s unused drive bay and the Xserve will filter dust out of the air that’s drawn through the computer in the front-to-back cooling approach that’s necessary for rack enclosure. (MacHEPA is also working on a version for the drive bays in the Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Door), also commonly called the "Windtunnel" for its excessively loud fans.)
The MacHEPA filters cost $50 each, with replacement filter cartridges an extra $25. A filter cartridge should last at least a year, although the actual lifespan depends on how dirty the environment is. If you’re cutting sheetrock and spewing vast amounts of dust into the air, you’ll need to replace your filters more often. The truly cool bit? MacHEPA has managed to tie into Apple’s internal monitoring software so you’ll see blinking lights on the outside of the Xserve when the filter needs changing, and warnings also appear in the Blowers tab in Apple’s Server Monitor remote management application.
Although a MacHEPA filter probably won’t make much of a difference in a data center crowded with servers from other manufacturers, companies that standardize on the Xserve may be able to reduce their total cost of ownership significantly by installing MacHEPA filters instead of using expensive air conditioning equipment to filter the air. What about cooling? The Xserve’s powerful fans can keep the Xserve within its 95-degree F (35-degree C) operating limit in normal circumstances (and in extreme situations, the Xserve’s internal temperature monitoring will shut the machine down before any damage occurs). Put it all together, and you end up with a data center that doesn’t need nearly as much, if any air conditioning. This, of course, depends on the local climate – I wouldn’t try this in muggy Florida or the hotter parts of Australia, but realistically, those areas will have a certain level of air conditioning in place to keep the humans comfortable.
An added benefit of the MacHEPA filter is better conformance with OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) guidelines for workplace safety relating to indoor air quality and occupational asthma.
Chuck Goolsbee, vice president of Technical Operations for digital.forest, said that digital.forest is considering creating an Xserve-only data center for Xserves outfitted with MacHEPA filters. Since the cost of maintaining that particular data center will be lower than normal, digital.forest plans to pass on the savings in the form of lower hosting fees for customers who use an Xserve/MacHEPA combination.
And besides, wouldn’t it be cool to use the Server Monitor remote management application to see just how dirty your server is from thousands of miles away? MacHEPA is just another reason our next server will be an Xserve.
I haven’t written much for TidBITS lately, in part because I’ve been busy helping some old friends at Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) with an upcoming release of Microsoft Word 5.1 for OS X, a carbonized version of Word 5.1a that preserves most of the features and all the look and feel of the highly popular Word 5.1. A few external beta testers – all former employees of the Macintosh Word Support Group – have been working day and night to identify new bugs generated as part of the carbonization process, and to focus programming efforts on the most pesky of Word 5.1’s old problems.
The design goal for Word 5.1 for Mac OS X was to create a clean, carbonized version that would run natively under Mac OS X with as few changes from the original version as possible. After much gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, Microsoft decided to remove linking features from the new version, citing little hope of clearing up existing bugs. That means no more publish and subscribe, and no more OLE (Object Linking and Embedding). Equation Editor and Microsoft Graph have been incorporated into the main software program as mini-modules, so they no longer rely on OLE to function, though Microsoft Graph has not been updated and remains somewhat dysfunctional. Although Word 5.1 for Mac OS X mimics the interface and appearance of its classic ancestor by default, it does offer a new option in the Preferences dialog for turning on an Aqua-style interface.
Following internal debate over the extent to which this release should track the original, Microsoft also corrected a few design errors left over from Word 5.1. For instance, tables can now print over a page break, you can delete a footnote by deleting its number in the footnote region, and rotated text is more likely to print smoothly. The ReadMe file included with the software offers a complete list of changes.
Although I was a member of the old Macintosh Word Support Group, I didn’t do much beta testing. Instead, I’ve been revamping a book I wrote back in 1993 – The Word Book for Macintosh Users – this time for Microsoft Press. Microsoft has released the golden master to manufacturing, so Word 5.1 for Mac OS X should be available for online purchasing for $45 in early May. The only included documentation is Balloon Help, but by late May, the new edition of The Word Book should be on shelves, and the software will be bundled with the book for the same price.
Word 5.1 for Mac OS X represents a credible job on MacBU’s part to bring Word 5.1 into this century, and I expect that many old-time Word users will be happy to trade in the bells and whistles of newer versions for the comfort of an older, more familiar, less-Windows-influenced piece of software.
Some voices are so unique that you can identify them immediately: Sean Connery, James Earl Jones, and Bruno Kirby spring to mind. Then there are voices that are equally unique, but not as well known in popular circles. During a recent trip, I was working on my PowerBook in the Memphis, Tennessee airport when I heard a familiar man’s voice, low and with an unmistakable cadence. Mustering my courage and with my PowerBook in hand, I approached the man – in his mid-50s, dressed in jeans and a black blazer – and asked, "Excuse me, are you Fred?" A somewhat embarrassed grin crossed his face, as he immediately ascertained why I had recognized him. "Yes," he replied, "I’m that Fred."
That Fred is the man whose voice speaks to Macintosh users everywhere. Many years ago, Fred Cooper was tapped to utter the Mac’s first words: after Steve Jobs pulled the original Macintosh from within a canvas bag, the machine said, "Hello. I am Macintosh. It sure is great to get out of that bag." Here’s a transcript of my conversation with Fred; you can listen to the original recording at the second link below.
TidBITS: How did you first become involved with the Macintosh team?
Fred: It was quite random, really. I answered my phone one day and didn’t understand the person on the other end. It turns out they were in Bangladesh! I then got another call from some guy asking about the call. That guy was Woz, Steve Wozniak. He said he liked my voice and asked if I could help out some friends of his.
TidBITS: Which friends were those?
Fred: Members of the original Macintosh team. Steve Jobs wanted the computer to speak at its introduction, but they couldn’t get the speech synthesizer working reliably. So I met with them at Apple, and I recorded that line about getting out of the bag.
TidBITS: So they used your voice as the basis of the speech synthesis?
Fred: No, that was my voice that everyone heard! I think they degraded the recording a little, but it was actually just a tape queued to play when Steve lifted the bag. Later on, they fixed the problems with the speech synthesizer code, and used my voice as the basis for the Fred voice on Macs today.
TidBITS: Is it strange to hear your own voice? I notice that you use a TiBook.
Fred: I can’t listen to my own voice. I prefer the Victoria voice. I always think of my computer as a woman anyway. And, I met Victoria once… a very nice, beautiful woman.
TidBITS: Did you ever expect that your voice would become so popular? I’ve heard it in other things, such as Radiohead’s song "Fitter, Happier," and of course Stephen Hawking’s computerized voice.
Fred: The Radiohead thing was just a fluke. I spent maybe half an hour recording that, and at the time it made no sense. But when the song was mixed, it really came together. As for Dr. Hawking, I’m proud to have been the basis for his system. When I hear him speak, I don’t even hear myself any more, his ideas are so unique. But my wife likes to think that I’m the one talking about time and space occasionally.
TidBITS: I see that your plane is about to embark. Thanks for taking some time to talk with TidBITS.
Fred: Thank you! Keep up the good work.