This week’s Worldwide Developers Conference spurred a bevy of announcements by Apple, and we have details of the new Power Mac G5, the preview of Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, iChat AV and the iSight video camera. But WWDC isn’t the only Mac event in this busy June: Adam reports on the MacHax Best Hack Contest from last week’s MacHack. Also, we note the releases of Safari 1.0, AirPort 3.1, iPod Software 2.0.1, and Mailsmith 2.0, plus how to get free Macworld passes!
Safari 1.0 and SDK Released — Apple’s Safari Web browser has officially been set loose in the wild. Safari 1.0 was released today via Software Update and as a separate 6.2 MB download. According to Apple, this release improves Web standards compatibility, is available in all Mac OS X languages, and is now the default Mac OS X browser (supplanting Microsoft Internet Explorer, which was recently put into maintenance mode; see TidBITS-684 for details). More Safari-related AppleScript scripts appeared today as well. Apple also released a Safari software development kit (SDK) to enable developers to access Safari’s HTML rendering engine from their applications. The lack of a good system-wide HTML rendering engine has hurt many applications, so we expect HTML display and rendering to improve throughout the Macintosh world as developers take advantage of Safari. [JLC]
AirPort 3.1 Applies 802.11g Spec — One week after the IEEE ratified the 802.11g specification for higher-speed wireless equipment, Apple has released AirPort 3.1 for Mac OS X, which updates Macs using AirPort Extreme (see "802.11g (AirPort Extreme) Ratified" in TidBITS-684). The update includes AirPort Extreme Firmware v5.1 (also available as a separate 2 MB download) to update AirPort Extreme Base Stations and AirPort Extreme cards. Along with implementing the final 802.11g spec, the update adds packet bursting, which improves throughput on 802.11g networks. Apple also slipped in a few other improvements: an AirPort Extreme Base Station can be set up as a "relay" device within a network containing multiple base stations, and networking speed is improved when interfering equipment (such as 2.4 GHz cordless phones and microwave ovens) is in the vicinity. Finally, Apple also released a beta version of AirPort Extreme Admin Utility for Windows XP and Windows 2000, something the company said was requested by many users in mixed computing environments. The AirPort 3.1 update requires Mac OS X 10.2.6 and later, and is available through Software Update or as a separate 7 MB download. [JLC]
iPod Software 2.0.1 Released — Apple has released iPod Software 2.0.1, improving performance and Windows compatibility for 2003 iPod models that feature a dock connector (earlier iPod models remain at version 1.3 of the software). The 2.0.1 update improves playback performance and handling of MP3 Variable Bit Rate (VBR) songs, enhances the alarm clock and On-The-Go playlist, features better support for Asian languages, and fixes problems with sorting by artist and left/right channel swapping. The backlight has been improved so that it doesn’t automatically turn off after a few seconds while you’re using the iPod. The latest iPod models work on Macs and under Windows, and Windows users will be happy to learn that this update provides the USB 2.0 connectivity (when paired with the separate $20 iPod Dock Connector to FireWire and USB 2.0 cable) that was promised when the new iPods were unveiled. The update also brings support for Audible.com content, the capability to use multiple iPods on one computer, shorter connection times, and better overall performance. The iPod Software 2.0.1 update requires Mac OS X 10.1.2 or higher and is available through Software Update or as a separate 30 MB download. Windows users should also download MusicMatch Jukebox 7.5 to gain USB 2.0 functionality. [JLC]
<http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/ WebObjects/AppleStore? productLearnMore=M9126G%2FA>
The Mail Must Go Through, Faster — Bare Bones Software has released version 2.0 of its POP/SMTP email client, Mailsmith (see "Mailsmith 1.5: Lean, Mean Email Machine" in TidBITS-638). In addition to standard email client features, Mailsmith incorporates the key text-handling abilities of Bare Bones’s BBEdit, now including PCRE-based regular expression searching. This version offers seamless integration with Michael Tsai’s SpamSieve (see "Tools We Use: SpamSieve" in TidBITS-667), PGP, and Apple’s Address Book. Interface details and the internal threading and storage implementations have been heavily reworked, resulting in a smooth, fast, reliable, and intuitive user experience. Mailsmith requires Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar or later, and costs $100. This upgrade is free to Mailsmith 1.5 owners; an $80 crossgrade is available. New purchasers can get a free copy of SpamSieve 1.3 if ordered before 30-Jul-03. A 30-day demo is available as a 12.9 MB download. [MAN]
Free Macworld CreativePro Exhibit Passes — With WWDC and MacHack under our belts, it’s time to look ahead to the Macworld CreativePro Conference and Expo, 16-Jul-03 through 18-Jul-03 in New York City. If you’re planning to attend and want free passes (a $35 value), our friends at Peachpit Press want to help: send an email containing your complete mailing address to <[email protected]> (you’ll receive two per request, so give one to a friend). The passes are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so get your request in today before Peachpit runs out! And hey, if you take advantage of this offer, stop by the Peachpit booth to thank them and pick up a book by one of the TidBITS crowd. [JLC]
Touting them as the "world’s fastest personal computer," Apple today announced its Power Mac G5 line of desktop computers with 1.6 to 2 GHz processor speeds, high-performance internals, and a 64-bit processor architecture designed to give the Power Mac line a much-needed performance boost and provide a clear road map for future development. Standard configurations of the new machines are priced from $2,000 to $3,000, and will be available starting in August of 2003.
Out of the Wind Tunnel, On to the Cheese Grater — On the outside, the Power Mac G5 establishes yet another direction in Apple’s industrial design, this time sporting an anodized aluminum case with squared-off handles and perforation on the front and back to permit airflow through the machine’s four internal "thermal zones." (The new design has already been dubbed the "cheese grater," and the resemblance is remarkable.) The units have no less than nine internal fans, yet Apple says in normal operation they’re substantially quieter than earlier Power Mac G4 (Mirrored Drive Door) systems that were not-so-affectionately nicknamed "Windtunnels." As you’d expect, the Power Mac G5 enclosures feature a full complement of ports on the back, but also offer USB, FireWire, and headphone jacks on the front, which may save some crawling around under desks.
The G5’s Alive — The real changes are inside the box. The Power Mac G5 systems are built around the 64-bit IBM 970 processor, which Apple has dubbed the PowerPC G5. The PowerPC G5 evolved from IBM’s POWER4 architecture (used in the company’s high-end eBusiness servers), rather than directly following from G3 and G4 processors developed by Motorola. However, if the PowerPC G5 isn’t a direct descendent of the processors in current Macs, it’s a cousin: the original PowerPC architecture was designed jointly by Apple, Motorola, and IBM, and was meant from the outset to be expanded to a 64-bit architecture. Eventually, IBM branched off with what became the POWER4 architecture when it decided it wanted to focus on processor clustering, servers, and embedded systems, and Motorola came up with the high-output AltiVec unit (aka Apple’s Velocity Engine). The PowerPC G5 weds the two efforts, combining IBM’s POWER4 architecture with an optimized Velocity Engine and a new 130-nanometer manufacturing process at IBM’s new plant in Fishkill, New York.
Here are the main features of the PowerPC G5:
High clock speeds: PowerPC G5s start at 1.6 to 2 GHz , and Apple says 3 GHz G5s will be ready within a year.
A 64-bit architecture enables Macs to handle up to 8 GB of RAM initially, with a real-world RAM ceiling of 4 terabytes (TB).
Full compatibility with existing 32-bit PowerPC software – i.e., everything which runs right now under Mac OS X, including Classic applications and the Unix environment. Existing applications can run on the new processors with no penalty – no emulation or recompiling required – and current applications optimized for the Velocity Engine garner an instant speed bump. Programs recompiled specifically for the PowerPC G5 processor will see even greater performance enhancements.
But wait, there’s more. One of the problems with modern personal computing architecture is that processors spend a surprising amount of time twiddling their thumbs waiting on other parts of the computer like RAM, the PCI or FireWire buses, or (horror of horrors!) a mere disk drive. Processors engage in branch prediction (er, idle speculation?) while they’re waiting so they’ll be ready to go when a computer’s subsystems catch up, but basically, you want the processor waiting around as little as possible. To that end, Apple has put nearly every major subsystem in the Power Mac G5 on its own high-speed bus (avoiding traffic jams as data moves between components: RAM gets a 333 or 400 MHz bus, PCI-X cards get a 133 MHz bus, etc.) and – most significantly – a separate pair of 32-bit unidirectional buses for the G5 processor running at speeds from 800 MHz to 1 GHz. Combined, these are termed a frontside bus, and they represent a substantial leap forward from the 167 MHz system buses used in previous high-end Power Mac G4 systems, and – even better – dual processor G5 systems have a separate frontside bus for each processor, further enhancing performance on dual processor machines.
Apple’s Top Models — Apple will be shipping three configurations of the Power Mac G5 beginning in August. All configurations can handle Bluetooth and Airport Extreme wireless networking and feature 8x AGP Pro graphics slots, a Serial ATA hard drive, 512K of L2 processor cache per processor, 4x SuperDrives, one FireWire 800 port, two FireWire 400 ports (one on the front), three (new!) USB 2.0 ports (one on the front), two USB 1.1 ports (one on the keyboard), two internal hard drive bays (one empty), built-in Gigabit Ethernet, a 56 Kbps V.92 modem, analog and (new!) optical audio in and out, and a front headphone jack. These systems boot into Mac OS X, and cannot start up from Mac OS 9 (although, of course, the Classic environment is still available within Mac OS X).
The low-end $2,000 model features a 1.6 GHz PowerPC G5 processor with an 800 MHz frontside bus, 256 MB of PC2700 (333 MHz) RAM, an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra video card with 64 MB of video RAM, an 80 GB hard drive, and three available full-length 33 MHz, 64-bit PCI slots. The mid-range $2,400 model has a 1.8 GHz PowerPC G5 processor with a 900 MHz frontside bus, 512 MB of PC3200 (400 MHz) RAM, an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra video card with 64 MB of video RAM, a 160 GB hard drive, and three available full-length 64-bit PCI-X expansion slots (one at 133 MHz, the other two at 100 MHz). The $3,000 high-end system features dual 2 GHz PowerPC G5 processors with a 1 GHz frontside bus for each processor, 512 MB of PC3200 (400 MHz) RAM, an ATI Radeon 9600 Pro with 64 MB of video RAM, a 160 GB hard drive, and three full-size 64-bit PCI-X expansion slots (one at 133 MHz, the other two at 100 MHz).
Each of these configurations can be customized using build-to-order options through dealers, Apple Stores, or the online Apple Store.
Five and Dime — There’s no doubt that, when they finally become available in late summer, the Power Mac G5s will represent a substantial performance improvement for Apple’s aging Power Macintosh line – no doubt many Macintosh proponents have already placed their orders for these machines. Significantly, the PowerPC G5 processor and the new system architecture give Apple room to grow: expect to see more multi-processor systems become available as the product line evolves, along with concomitant speed increases in processors, frontside caches, and other internal components.
It remains to be seen how transparent developers will be able to make the transition to the PowerPC G5. High-end media applications and action games will want to compile specifically for the PowerPC G5. Hopefully, programmers will find a way to make PowerPC G5 versions of their programs available without creating confusion amongst existing and future PowerPC G3 and G4 users, particularly since Apple’s laptop line may be using G3 and G4 processors for some time to come.
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Today at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs unveiled the next version of Mac OS X, codenamed Panther and scheduled to ship sometime before the end of 2003 for $130. Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar was a major upgrade with numerous large and small improvements over the previous version, and from initial impressions, it appears that Panther will follow in Jaguar’s footsteps. Jobs said that Apple has made over 100 major changes to Panther. Here’s a brief overview, based on the information available at this point.
New Finder — Panther sports an all new, brushed metal Finder with several significant changes to standard windows that Jobs claimed were more user-centric. In particular, Apple tried to emphasize those folders that people actually use by putting them in the new Places sidebar on the left side of the window, much like albums in iPhoto or playlists in iTunes. The top part of the Places sidebar lists accessible volumes; the lower part holds your favorite folders. Clicking an item in the Places sidebar jumps to it directly. The Finder will feature new Open and Save dialogs that also use the Places sidebar; we’ll see if that’s sufficient to help us wake from the horrible nightmare that Open and Save dialogs have been for so long.
Labels have finally returned to the Panther Finder, as has network browsing using the Network icon that has long sat (mostly) unused at the top level of everyone’s hard disk. Searching should be faster in Panther’s Finder as well, and like searching in iTunes and Mail, it will refine the visible items to those that match as you type. In a fascinating twist, Apple has also added an Action menu to the toolbar of Finder windows; it simply contains the content of the contextual menu that would appear if you Control-clicked or right-clicked a selection in the Finder. That says to me that Apple is acknowledging a basic usability problem with contextual menus for many users; there’s no way to know a contextual menu is available simply by looking.
Lastly, a new feature called Expose (actually spelled with an accent on the final "e" and pronounced "ex-po-zay" from what little I could hear of the stuttering QuickTime webcast) aims to help us clean our cluttered Desktops. Expose offers three functions that can be invoked with a function key, by throwing the pointer into a corner of the screen, or with a button on multi-button mice. The first function uses Quartz to tile all open windows; mousing over a window displays its title, and clicking one expands it (along with all the rest) and makes it the foreground window. The second function tiles all the windows in the current application while making windows in other applications go grey; again, a click in a window activates it. The third function simply hides all open windows, providing access to the Desktop. Apple doesn’t say if pressing the function key a second time will show all those hidden windows again.
Network Improvements — As is fitting for today’s emphasis on the Internet and local area networks, Panther incorporates a number of changes that should make Macs even better network citizens. SMB and Active Directory support has improved, which should enable Macs to coexist on Windows networks better. IPSec-based (IP Security) virtual private networking is also included.
On the Mac-only side, Panther can automatically synchronize files with your iDisk in the background, making it easy to maintain backup copies of important files (although 100 MB of iDisk storage disappears awfully fast these days). The better iDisk integration also means easier sharing of files between computers, and Jobs claimed it works particularly well with laptops that connect only sporadically. It’s basically a local folder that syncs via .Mac.
Mail 2.0 and Address Book — Apple’s bundled email client will receive a significant upgrade with Panther. Performance has reportedly improved significantly, and Mail will use Safari’s HTML engine, which will help HTML rendering quality and speed. For those who subscribe to mailing lists, Mail will provide a new interface for tracking and reading discussion threads. Mail’s spam filter has reportedly been improved for better accuracy, and it can take advantage of server-side spam marking tools like Spam Assassin or Brightmail. One last neat feature that previously existed only in Microsoft’s Entourage: replies and forwards are linked to messages, making it easy to track what you’ve done to a message.
Mail also has more integration with Address Book, and a number of new small features that some people may find helpful when addressing mail, such as the capability to highlight messages addressed to domains not in a "safe" list. Another interesting bit of integration – if you change some of your contact information in Address Book, a new option in that program can automatically notify all your contacts of the new information. Finally, Address Book can print labels and phone books.
User Switching and Security — In the keynote, Steve Jobs admitted that Windows XP had trumped Mac OS X in how it handled multiple users, since in Windows XP, you don’t have to quit all your applications to switch from one user to the other. That feature will be coming to Panther, and it should make Mac OS X significantly faster and easier to use for families having trouble justifying the extra work of multiple accounts. You set up fast user switching in the Accounts preferences pane, which also offers more levels of security that can be assigned to individual users.
Other security improvements include FileVault, which encrypts the entire contents of your home directory using 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption. It works on the fly, and is ideal for protecting files on a PowerBook or iBook. Laptop users will also appreciate a new Panther setting that requires a password whenever the Mac wakes from sleep.
Finally, a few utilities from independent developers will suffer from the addition of a new secure delete feature in Panther that writes seven passes of random data over deleted files to prevent them from being recovered.
Faxing and Preview — With Panther, Apple is entering a mostly ignored field that has seen little decent software over the years: faxing. If you hook up your Mac’s internal modem to a phone line, you can fax any document from the Print dialog to contacts in your Address Book with fax numbers. Incoming faxes can be printed, forwarded to an email address, or viewed in the new Preview application, which can now handle multi-page faxes. Preview converts black-and-white images to 8-bit grayscale using anti-aliasing and smoothing techniques, which may make the faxes easier to read on screen. It would be nice to see additional integration with Internet fax services like eFax, since no matter what Apple adds to Panther, there’s no way around the annoyance of dealing with fax reception without a dedicated second phone line.
Preview has received additional improvements, particularly in terms of performance and linking. Apple claims "URL support in Preview makes short work of navigating long documents," which I hope means that it supports PDF bookmarks and links. Also supported are links to other documents and out to Internet resources. If Preview offers support for all those types of links and proves to be faster than Acrobat Reader, it may supplant Acrobat Reader as the most capable PDF browser on the Mac. Other features that would help Preview overthrow Acrobat Reader include improved text copying from PDF documents (currently tricky with Acrobat Reader) and indexed text searches.
Font Book — Secure deletion utility developers are undoubtedly upset at Panther, and font utility developers may be as well, once they see the new Font Book. Like Suitcase and Font Reserve, Font Book helps you install, preview, search, activate, and deactivate your fonts. Activation and deactivation happen dynamically, so you don’t need to relaunch applications to take advantage of the changed font sets.
The Font Panel has been enhanced to help you take advantage of font ligatures, kerning, number spacing, rendering fractions, and more. The Character Palette even lets you preview a character rendered into every available font, something that will probably be appreciated by Unicode users.
The Upgrade Question — Steve Jobs claimed Apple has seven million active users of Mac OS X and said that the transition to Mac OS X will be done by the end of the year. I suspect that means that he thinks all of the people who are going to switch from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X will have done so by that point, though there’s no question that some people will remain with Mac OS 9 until they have reason to buy a new Mac.
As with the migration to Jaguar, I fully expect many existing Jaguar users to be unhappy about paying $130 for the upgrade to Panther, and it’s entirely likely that a non-trivial percentage of users will stick with Jaguar. When I asked a roomful of shareware developers at MacHack how many users they estimated hadn’t upgraded from Mac OS X 10.1 to Mac OS X 10.2, I heard numbers as high as 20 percent. That surprises me, since Jaguar is so much better than Mac OS X 10.1. Obviously, we won’t know for a while how much better than Jaguar Panther really is, but I expect the number of people who consider Jaguar sufficient to be potentially even higher than the number who stuck with Mac OS X 10.1. Apple clearly expects that some people won’t upgrade as well, since they’re offering iChat AV for free with Panther but charging $30 for those who want to use it with Jaguar.
We’ll certainly be ponying up the $130 for Panther when it comes out, so you can look forward to much more detailed coverage and thoughts about whether Panther will be worth your hard-earned cash.
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If you’re the type of person who bemoans the impersonal nature of email or text messaging, Apple wants to offer you a little face time. At the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) today, Apple introduced iChat AV, adding audio and video conferencing capabilities to its iChat instant messaging application. A public beta of iChat AV is now available as a 3.6 MB download. Also introduced was the iSight, a compact video camera that takes advantage of iChat AV’s audio/visual capabilities; the iSight is available now.
iChat AV supports any FireWire DV camcorder or webcam, according to Apple, and automatically configures itself during installation. Other iChat AV users appear in the Buddy List with audio or video icons beside their names to indicate the type of connection that’s available. In addition to a default window size of 352 by 288 pixels (which can be resized during video sessions), the software also includes a full-screen mode. iChat AV will be included with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther when it is released later this year. Those who wish to stick with Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar and above can upgrade to iChat AV for $30 after 31-Dec-03.
That said, Apple would prefer that you not only upgrade to Panther, but also purchase the $150 iSight, a video camera designed to be mounted on Apple displays and laptops. The iSight includes an auto-focus lens with 640 by 480 resolution, a lens aperture of F/2.8 to collect more light in poorly lit situations, and a video frame rate of up to 30 frames per second (fps). For audio, the iSight includes a dual element noise-suppressing microphone. It’s also small and light, weighing in at 2.5 ounces (63.8 grams).
We’ll have more on iChat AV and the iSight in a future issue, but in our preliminary testing of iChat AV with various microphones and FireWire webcams, the application performed well, with the audio being both surprisingly clear and full-duplex.
The touchstone for the MacHack developers conference has long been the annual MacHax Group’s Best Hack Contest, in which numerous Macintosh developers of all skill levels work alone or in small groups to show off their programming talents and learn new skills, all while having some fun and entertaining their friends. Despite the reduced number of attendees due to Apple’s rescheduling of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the Hack Contest received more than 50 entries. Although the raw number of submissions was lower than in recent years, the overall quality and humor level was high.
Taking notes during the often raucous Hack Contest is tricky, since you’re trying to pay attention to what’s happening on screen, correctly transcribe the name of the presenter and the hack, and make comments to your neighbors, all while keeping an eye out for the various tchotchkes being thrown to the audience from the stage. So this year, after hearing about it from another attendee, I tried an experiment in collaborative note-taking. I took my notes in the Hydra collaborative editor, which enables multiple people on either the local network or the Internet to edit the same document simultaneously. It was simple for people to connect to my document via Rendezvous, and after we implicitly worked out some techniques for avoiding each other’s lines, it went quite smoothly. You can see the raw transcript at the second link below, though we could find no way to preserve the colors and internal identification of who wrote what in the saved text file.
The theme of this year’s MacHack was "Unstoppable", which was a tongue-in-cheek comment both on Mac OS X’s reliability and on the damage done to the conference by Apple rescheduling WWDC. As such, many of the hacks used the theme as launching pad, with Mac OS X’s busy cursor, the rainbow-colored Spinning Pizza of Death (affectionately known as "SPOD"), making frequent appearances. After all, the Spinning Pizza of Death is itself usually unstoppable as well. Anyway, on with the hacks!
The Best of the Rest — As usual, many of the hacks that didn’t place in the top five were still impressive or amusing.
John Vink’s Stinkin’ Badges hacked Mac OS X’s screensaver to display Dock icons that have status badges in them, such as iChat, Mail, and Mailsmith.
Maurita Plouff and Chef Chris from the Holiday Inn collaborated on a pair of huge cookies decorated to look like the Spinning Pizza of Death (although I suppose this raises the question if it might in fact be a Spinning Cookie of Death). It wasn’t clear who ended up eating them, or if they were at all tasty.
Mike Cohen wrote a Perl script that enabled remote control over iTunes via a Web browser, but members of the audience figured out it was readily accessible and started controlling it during his demo.
David Shayer used the Notes reader in the iPod 2.0 software to recreate the classic game Adventure. You can install this on your own iPod if you buy the CD; details at the end.
Darrin Cardani’s GLCheat put any OpenGL application into wireframe mode, which meant that you could see through walls in games.
In an amusing twist of events, a doctor named Carl Williams accidentally wandered into the conference and ended up porting a medical information application he wrote for NeXTstep to Mac OS X for his hack.
Nicholas Riley and Avi Drissman showed EdgeWarp, which enabled drag & drop between computers.
Noah Spies and Andy Furnas did a clever hack that showed what was "under" the Desktop (a Terminal window, of course!).
Lastly, though not an official hack, I was pleased to discover that my running MacHack joke of storing a four-foot wooden stake in the hotel was able to continue (see "The MacHax Hack Contest 2001" in TidBITS-585 for how it started). Last year after the Hack Contest finished, I buried the stake in the flower beds that line the raised lobby of the hotel. I forgot to leave myself a note in my calendar to that effect, but when people started asking me about it I managed to dredge the location out of my memory. Presenting the dirt-encrusted stake during the Hack Contest as an example of an unstoppable hack got a good laugh, and I’ve increased the difficulty level for next year by leaving the stake in plain sight. No one seemed to notice it during the last day of the conference, but I won’t know until the next conference if it will escape the attention of the hotel staff for an entire year. Given that the point of being awarded the stake several years ago was to see how I’d get it home, the contest organizers raised the stakes (sorry!) this year by awarding me an emergency flare, which I could neither bring on a plane nor mail home and which I wasn’t comfortable stashing in the hotel somewhere. Luckily Dick and Andy Furnas offered to drive it home to Ithaca.
Enough of the also-rans, though – here are 2003’s top five hacks.
Fifth Place: Size Doesn’t Matter — Nicholas Straker’s hack was dizzying, and I’m not speaking at all figuratively. Playing off a movie that showed how the next version of Microsoft Windows would be able to rotate windows smoothly (presumably to demonstrate graphical processing power), Size Doesn’t Matter brought a similar lack of utility to Mac OS X by spinning all sorts of windows around one of the corners. By the end, Nicholas had so many windows spinning, including the menu bar, that many in the audience felt distinctly queasy. But enough people had recovered by the next morning to vote it into fifth place.
Third Place (Tie): GUI Kablooie — Andrew Pontious and Mac Murrett tied for third place with this extremely well-presented hack. Initially, they said they were trying to make a Breakout game using Finder windows, but after lowering everyone’s expectations, their hack just kept getting better, until it became clear that they had in fact written an Asteroids-like game in which you fly around your screen, shooting SPODs to blow up windows and icons. This not only demos well, but it also turns out to be surprisingly fun, as I discovered when I tried running the hack myself. I may have to keep this one around for when I feel like letting off some steam. (Be warned that although GUI Kablooie doesn’t delete files when you blow up icons, it does close windows, and you must restart when you’re finished to see everything properly again.)
Third Place (Tie): Interface Unbuilder — If GUI Kablooie will be useful for taking out generalized frustration on the visible items on your Mac, Gorman Christian’s Interface Unbuilder hack is a tool for people who feel like being more methodically violent. Once Interface Unbuilder is installed, you can Option-drag any control in a running Cocoa application to a new location. Even more astonishing, you can also drag controls to other applications, and no matter where they’ve been moved, the controls continue to operate on their original application. Needless to say, there were no derisive cries of "Useful!" for Gorman’s hack.
Second Place: AirPong — Written by a pair of 18-year-olds, Paul Scandariato and Jon Johnson, AirPong takes a simple concept (the Pong game in which you use paddles on either side of the screen to keep a ball bouncing around) and extends it. In this case, they extended it over the network, so up to four Macs could be used to widen the AirPong playing field. The ball was of course a Spinning Pizza of Death, and it was both technically impressive and amusing to see the SPOD bouncing from screen to screen across the network while they were playing.
First Place: Unstoppable Progress — Capturing first place in a runaway vote (more than double the number of votes than any other hack received) was Unstoppable Progress from the father and son team of Jon Gotow and his 15-year-old son Ben. Unstoppable Progress hacks progress bars such that after the bar fills up, "water" from the Aqua-themed bar starts spilling out the end. A few seconds after that, the dialog containing the progress bar starts to fill up with water, complete with waves sloshing back and forth. (And yes, it could have been called MacLeak, the nickname for the now-defunct MacWEEK magazine.) The ovation immediately following their presentation made it clear to me that Ben and Jon were in line for an award, since Unstoppable Progress epitomized the theme of the conference, was technically clever without providing any utility whatsoever, offered high graphical production values, and was extremely funny. First prize was, as always, the coveted Victor A-Trap award, a Victor Corporation rat trap whose name is slightly modified with an X-Acto knife (the R and T in RAT are excised) to match the name of the trap addresses used by programmers to patch the classic Mac OS. This year, however, Jon and Ben also won a FireWire drive kit and an Nvidia video card.
Jon Gotow is best known for Default Folder, a long-standing system utility for enhancing Open and Save dialog boxes, and the only such utility to have made the jump to Mac OS X. Most recently, Default Folder X won the 2002 Best System Enhancement Utility Editors Choice Award from Macworld. Ben has written a math quiz application called FlashMath that works for one or many students and intermittently interrupts whatever they’re doing to ask questions. Congratulations to them both for a hack well done.
Acquiring the Hacks — Despite the need for everyone to catch up on their sleep after MacHack (one night I made it to sleep by 2 AM; bedtime for all the other nights came after 4 AM), the MacHax Group has managed put together a CD containing all the hacks for those who want to check out the source code or try the hacks. Keep in mind that the hacks will almost certainly crash, and you very well may need to restart afterwards. The CD costs $20 plus $5 shipping within the U.S. and Canada, $15 shipping elsewhere in the world.
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Replacing a Power Mac G4 power supply — Readers chime in on their own experiences with Apple’s replacement power supply program, including ruminations on why Apple doesn’t build quieter machines in the first place. (11 messages)
Microsoft drops Mac Internet Explorer — With Microsoft ceasing new development of Internet Explorer, how does this affect Web browsing on the Mac? Safari continues to charge ahead, but there are still things that Internet Explorer can do better. (24 messages)
NoteTaker 1.5 issues — A new version of NoteTaker appears and promptly generates some back and forth discussion about problems that people are having with the upgrade. (3 messages)
PowerPC G5 coming out soon — Leading up to this week’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) and prompted by reports of leaked G5 specs on Apple’s Web site, readers prognosticate on Apple’s hardware future. (8 messages)
Apple and the UNIX trademark — It’s an age-old tale: who owns Unix? Discussion of the many permutations of Unix and how Apple is using it in Mac OS X. (12 messages)