Apple began shipping the Intel-based iMac, MacBook Pro, and Mac mini computers months earlier than expected, and now they’ve done the same with the high-end Xserve – boasting processors from Intel rival AMD; Geoff Duncan has the specs and analysis. Also in this special issue, Jeff Carlson notes new marketing campaigns by FedEx and UPS, Glenn Fleishman reports on the miniPLUS super-accessory for the Mac mini along with a way to run Classic on Intel chips, Adam unearths details on the little-known AJRP, and Joe Kissell announces "Take Control of Your Daily Life." Lastly, this issue marks the start of a new delivery option as well as the premiere of the TidBITS Video Podcast, and we regretfully announce that Joe is moving on from TidBITS.
TidBITS Predelivery Service — Why are you receiving TidBITS today? Well, we know that our readers want the most timely Macintosh information, and now we’ve come up with the best method to deliver it to you. Starting with this issue, you’ll receive TidBITS in its entirety a day before we’re finished writing and editing it. We can’t explain all the technology to you – it’s a mixture of Web Crossing, FileMaker Pro, and a dash of HyperCard, all running on a Mac SE/30 with a blown analog board (and no security problems, thanks to System 7!) that we control via Timbuktu Pro – but we have to launch our patent lawsuits against Research in Motion, Microsoft, and the people who wrote “Back to the Future” before we can go into details. No matter what, rest assured that you’ll get the same high quality content before we’re even done with it. [ACE]
Joe Kissell Leaving TidBITS — Senior Editor Joe Kissell, after a record-setting tenure, announced that he will be leaving TidBITS, reportedly to spend more time with his family. In a press conference today, Kissell, accompanied by his tearful wife Morgen Jahnke, broke the news to his loyal fans, saying only that the timing was in now way related to last week’s departure of Apple executives Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein. When asked about the leaked copy of an ebook he allegedly wrote titled “Take Control of Apple Computer, Inc.,” Kissell vigorously denied any such plans, adding, “I make it a policy not to comment on upcoming products or services.” Additional details about this unexpected departure may be forthcoming on Kissell’s appearance on a special edition of Chuck Joiner’s MacVoices podcast later this evening, but he did note that his work on Take Control ebooks would be continuing. [ACE]
Announcing the TidBITS Video Podcast — One aspect of being an all-digital publication is that we can take advantage of new technologies that are out of the reach of paper publishers. TidBITS is, after all, just lots of digital bits, which can be arranged in a multitude of media. Now, after a fair bit of trial and error, we’re happy to announce our new TidBITS Video Podcast.
Publishing a video podcast is not an easy endeavor, due to the many choices that the producer faces: How much live video footage do you use, versus animation or photo slideshows? What type of setting do you use as a backdrop? Do you need extra lighting? And what about audio? What equipment should you use to capture good sound? Do you use background music, and if so, where does it come from (and is it properly licensed)? And finally, how can we create a podcast that captures the ethos and spirit of TidBITS? Fortunately, the TidBITS staff is a talented group of folks, so we were able to tap into my knowledge of video editing, Geoff’s experience as a professional musician, and the editorial expertise of the rest of the staff to create a podcast that we’re sure will entertain and inform. The TidBITS Video Podcast is free, of course, and available at the URL below; we’re in the process of setting up a subscription via iTunes, Safari, or other RSS-capable applications. [JLC]
When Apple announced in June 2005 it was planning to transition its Macintosh computer line to Intel-based processors, the entire Apple community was aghast: a move away from PowerPC would be a historic turning point for the company and its flagship computers. But a tiny portion of the Macintosh community was aghast for different reasons. They were thinking: “Intel processors? What about AMD?!” Well, today at a press event in Mountain View, they got their answer.
Apple Computer has announced a significant revision to its Xserve line of high-end rackmount server and data-processing computers. Like previous Xserves, the new units feature mammoth memory and storage capacities, multiple high-speed networking interfaces, and lightning-quick internal architecture. These are machines made for high-end scientific computation, video rendering, or mammoth Internet server applications. And, like Apple’s recent iMac, Mac mini, and MacBook Pro offerings, the new Xserves no longer feature PowerPC processors. The difference is that rather than being built around Intel Core Solo or Core Duo processors, the new Xserves feature up to two dual-core AMD Opteron processors running at speeds up to 2.8 GHz. And Apple says they’ll be available at the end of the month at startlingly low prices.
Spec It Out — The technical specifications for the new Xserve AMDs make for heady reading – and the units will be available in three primary configurations which can be further customized – so just bear with me a bit.
At the core, the Xserve AMD units will feature either one or two dual-core AMD Opteron processors; depending on the configuration and clock speed, the Opteron CPUs can be model 275, 280, or 285 SEs, and each core will have 1 MB of processor cache. The servers ship with a minimum of 1 GB of 400 MHz (128bit+ECC) memory, with support for up to 16 GB of onboard RAM. Storage options come via four independent Serial ATA drive bays with removable Apple Drive Modules and offer up to 2 terabytes of storage; the system also sports a slot-loading DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, with an optional DVD-R SuperDrive available. For expansion, the system offers two low-profile 64-bit PCI-X expansion slots (one at 100 MHz, one at 133 MHz), two FireWire 800 ports, one FireWire 400 port, two USB 2.0 ports, and one DB-9 (RS-232) serial port. Like previous Xserve models, the Xserve AMDs sport two independent gigabit Ethernet interfaces; additional gigabit Ethernet can be added via PCI-X expansion cards.
Xserve AMD users can connect to an Xserve RAID drive using an optional PCI-X Fibre Channel card, enabling 2 GB/second access to as much as 7 terabytes of additional storage. Additional PCI-X expansion cards (available separately) enable access to hardware RAID arrays, SCSI devices, and VGA monitors. As rackmount server units, Xserve AMDs don’t ship with any built-in video output. However, in a move new to Apple’s Xserve line, the Xserve AMDs feature dual redundant hot-swappable power supplies.
Three basic Xserve AMD configurations will be available: a single processor Xserve AMD with a dual-core 2.2 GHz Opteron processor, 1 GB of RAM, and one 400 GB Apple Drive module; a high-speed Xserve AMD with two 2.8 GHz dual-core Opteron processors; and a slightly stripped-down cluster node Xserve AMD with two 2.8 GHz dual-core AMD processors, but only 512 MB of RAM, 240 GB of storage, and a 10-client edition of Mac OS X Tiger Server. Other Xserve AMD units will ship with unlimited versions of Tiger Server.
And here’s the kicker: where pricing for Apple’s previous PowerPC-based G5 systems started at $3,000, the base configuration of the Xserve AMD starts at just $1,800, with the two-processor dual-core Opteron configuration starting at $2,600. Of course, by the time one adds additional memory, storage capacity, and hosting costs into the equations, the Xserve AMDs are still costly systems, but, in the world of rack-mount servers, Apple has suddenly become very competitive.
Not Fade Away… Yet — Unlike Apple’s iMac and Mac mini transitions, Apple has no immediate plans to do away with the PowerPC-based editions of its Xserves: both Xserve editions will remain for sale from Apple for the immediate future. Apple spokesperson Said Al Atztru noted that many existing Xserve users have built significant applications and supercomputing clusters using Apple’s Xserves, and the company has no intention of leaving them twisting in the wind. “We understand that converting those applications to a new architecture is going to take a significant amount of time and resources, and, as we always have been with our Xserve customers, we’ll be there to assist those users through that transition as smoothly as possible.”
When queried about the decision to use AMD processors in the company’s high-end servers rather than Intel-based chips, Al Atztru was surprisingly forthcoming. “Apple announced it was transitioning the Macintosh line to Intel-based chips, and we’re doing just that. We don’t have any plans to put AMD processors in our consumer or professional Macintosh systems. That said – and I know it sounds pedantic – the Xserve is a special case product for specific purposes. It’s never said ‘Macintosh’ on the box. No one – or, at least, we hope no one – is going to buy an Xserve as a means to get their grandmother on the Internet. That’s not what they’re for. So, we don’t see any contradiction in making Xserves with AMD processors and saying we’re transitioning the Macintosh to Intel processors.”
Al Atztru continued, “From a technical perspective, AMD makes compelling processors for the server market. While I wouldn’t rule out future Intel-based Xserve systems, since Intel’s Core Solo and Core Duo processors have wonderful performance-to-watt ratios, those advances haven’t yet fully translated to Intel’s line of processors for server systems. Going with AMD’s processors lets us achieve approximately 50 percent greater performance than Intel’s Xeon processors while consuming about one-third the power.”
Time will tell. Apple Xserve AMDs are scheduled to be available by the end of April; the company will start taking pre-orders later this week.
Those who forget the past are condemned to emulate it. Apple’s announcement last year that the company would cease selling PowerPC-equipped Macintoshes also meant the end of Mac OS 9’s lingering remnant, the Classic compatibility environment.
The Classic environment requires a PowerPC processor in order to run Mac OS 9 in a little prison in which programs can behave within certain parameters. We know plenty of people who need dual-boot Macintoshes – those that can run either Mac OS 9 or Mac OS X from a cold start – and those that have legacy programs that have never been revised but operate perfectly well within Classic mode.
It rubbed many people the wrong way that Apple couldn’t simply wire Classic to work under PowerPC emulation. After all, Mac OS X for Intel incorporates on-the-fly Rosetta emulation for Mac OS X programs that aren’t recompiled in universal (PowerPC/Intel) binaries or Intel-only binaries.
It comes as a great relief that one company has decided to take a stand. The oddly named Stoic Form, based in Dublin, Ireland, told TidBITS in a briefing late this week that it had created Stoic Form Classic, an independently developed version of Classic that runs within Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). They recommend a PC system with an Intel Core Duo processor – if it weren’t ironic enough that Mac users who need to maintain Classic applications will have to switch to Windows to do so. Stoic said they licensed virtualization code from Lismore Systems, whose emulation software resembles Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac OS X.
Stoic Form said that they were also able to license the Transitive technology that powers Apple’s on-the-fly code translation in Rosetta. Rosetta turns PowerPC code into Intel instructions for most software that hasn’t been rewritten as a universal binary (PowerPC plus Intel code in one package). The company said that you must own and install a copy of Mac OS 9; they don’t want to get close to violating Apple’s intellectual property rights. Although Windows XP SP2 is required now, Stoic claimed a version that runs within Mac OS X on Intel-based Macs was in the works, but refused to speculate about a release date.
To run Classic in Windows XP SP2, you download a 25 MB file from Stoic Form’s Web site – they’re currently in a closed beta, soon to go public – and install it. For those familiar with Virtual PC and other emulators, the experience is the same. When launched, Stoic Form Classic offers a blinking disk icon. Insert a Mac OS 9 installation CD, and all will go as one expects. In fact, as Virtual PC for Mac and Windows have shown, having a software emulator that pretends to be extremely standard hardware can make installation even simpler than it is on a random PC.
Classic mode was never speedy even on the fastest G5s. That’s why Stoic Form’s emulator will be a great relief: it runs Mac OS 9 programs as fast as a moderately speedy G4 processor. In fact, most Mac OS 9 programs should run faster than on almost all Macs that can still boot Mac OS 9 natively.
Stoic Form wouldn’t provide many details about the company, nor why they’d be offering Stoic Form Classic for only $40 when it ships in the second quarter of 2006. But we at TidBITS find it somewhat suspicious that Stoic Form is an anagram of Microsoft, and that the firm is based in Dublin, where Microsoft has extensive operations for Europe. Lismore, the company they licensed components from, was also originally based in Dublin, too, before moving to Moscow – which might mean that some employees have shifted from one firm to another.
Could Stoic Form Classic be Microsoft’s own Switcher campaign? An attempt to lure the millions of Mac owners still running Mac OS 9 or needing Classic into buying fancy new Intel-based systems running Windows XP – and later Vista? It seems overly subtle for Microsoft, though, so perhaps we should merely be satisfied with the irony of Classic gaining a new lease on life thanks to Windows.
In a marketing move that hearkens back to summer days of yesteryear, FedEx – currently Apple’s primary overnight delivery vendor – announced that starting today all of its commercial vehicles will broadcast a distinctive musical tune while making package deliveries. FedEx Vice President of Marketing G. Hume Mann said, “We’ve had enormous success with our highly visible purple, orange, and white color scheme, and believe that the new distinctive musical tones will project our brand into another dimension.”
In the same way that children would hear the songs of ice-cream trucks before arriving in their neighborhood, the FedEx tones will enable customers to know when their packages are nearby. The initiative also has a practical upshot in addition to the powerful brand extension. Mann continued, “Our tracking servers experience an unexpectedly high amount of traffic during the peak hours between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM in each time zone as recipients repeatedly enter their tracking numbers. If a truck is in the neighborhood and some of our customers hear it, they’ll go outside to meet the vehicle. We project bandwidth savings of approximately 6 percent, and time savings of about 8 percent due to drivers not having to climb stairs and navigate buildings. And, frankly, we’re happy to encourage many of our high-tech customers to get outside and experience some sunshine.”
The tones, a four-chord harmony developed in a partnership with legendary composer John Williams (who scored music for the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies, in addition to the iconic NBC Nightly News theme), were designed specifically to sound unique and inviting, even under frequent repetition. To help introduce the song, FedEx has made an MP3 version available for download at its Web site and has entered into an agreement with Apple to offer it for free from the iTunes Music Store.
Shortly after the FedEx announcement, United Parcel Service (UPS) announced that it, too, has been testing a similar program for several months and will be rolling it out over the next few weeks. The UPS jingle is still a closely guarded secret, and is due to be presented at a formal announcement on Wednesday, although rumors are swirling that it sounds more “brown.”
The Mac mini was recognized from its debut as one of the most stylish Macintoshes ever introduced because of its sleek simplicity and compact size. Call it the Cube perfected. Apparently, even perfection can be improved. Many companies, including LaCie and Other World Computing, have produced hard drive and USB/FireWire hub combos that have the same footprint as the Mac mini, and The Plasticsmith offers stands and skirts for the product.
But the latest Mac mini add-on takes the notion of a headless computer and turns it, well, on its head. The miniPLUS from MacStalgia adds a display via a small color LCD that’s part of a snap-on case for the top of a Mac mini (either PowerPC or Intel Core models). It uses passive convection to avoid an additional fan.
The LCD is just 9 inches measured diagonally, which shouldn’t be a surprise: the miniPLUS resembles a Macintosh Plus in both its external appearance, updated to the brushed aluminum look of the Mac mini, and its capability to accept 1.44 MB floppy disks. The 9-inch LCD offers extremely high resolution, providing a crisp 24-bit color image at a maximum of 1280 by 960 pixels.
Yes, you heard correctly: because floppy drive mechanisms are so remarkably cheap, the drive was thrown in as an extra bit of nostalgia. It can read some of the oldest formats, so you can finally recover data from your previously unusable floppies. Push a button next to the drive, and it moves out of the way to disclose an 8-in-1 flash memory reader that handles Compact Flash, SD, and other formats.
The MacStalgia folks didn’t skimp on nice touches. For instance, there’s a large, original-Mac-style power switch conveniently located in the back, and a set of SCSI, LocalTalk, serial, and ADB connectors. Again, these parts are so cheap, it’s trivial to add them for the authentic touch. SCSI, serial, and ADB are converted into USB 2.0 via included drivers for Mac OS X 10.2.9 and later, while LocalTalk is bridged into Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
MacStalgia has deep Apple roots, having been founded by reclusive Mac hardware genius Burrell Smith, widely recognized as second in cleverness at Apple only to Woz when it came to just creating stuff previously thought physically impossible. Smith has been a private citizen since departing monitor and storage company Radius, which he co-founded nearly two decades ago.
MacStalgia’s next plan, after gauging market interest for this kind of combo retro/futuramo project, is to develop software that apes Front Row. For a certain audience, that combination might take the Mac mini beyond the switcher special to make it front and center in a media cabinet.
Having recently published my ninth Take Control ebook in two and a half years, I finally had to admit that my productivity is slipping. While that level of output may seem prolific to some, my own standards are higher; in the 2004-2005 season of my Interesting Thing of the Day site, for example, I published an article of up to 1500 words every single day (while also writing ebooks and magazine articles, of course); I also wrote an entire novel during the month of November. Therefore, publishing ebooks so infrequently must be a sign of growing inefficiency. Clearly, I was spending too much time on mundane tasks such as eating lunch and walking from my computer to the coffee machine.
With this realization also came a solution: I’d figure out how to take control of every aspect of my day, and package that knowledge in a new set of mini ebooks that could be released daily. This series, Take Control of Your Daily Life, goes on sale later today.
Each weekday, you’ll learn how to take control of some routine task. The first week’s titles include “Take Control of Personal Hygiene,” “Take Control of Your Laundry,” “Take Control of Pet Care,” “Take Control of Vacuuming” (with a special appendix on the Roomba and other robotic vacuum cleaners) and “Take Control of Breakfast.” Future titles will delve into such diverse areas as coordinating after-school transportation, managing phone calls with talkative relatives, and making the most effective use of time with your spouse or significant other.
When I first suggested this series to editor-in-chief Tonya Engst, her reaction can be best described as a mixture of amusement, horror, and incredulity. She reminded me that, apart from our standard editing and technical review steps (which together can last several weeks or longer), each ebook requires a production process that often takes more than a day. So it seemed logistically inconceivable to release a new ebook every single day.
After considerable discussion, brainstorming, and applications of strong spirits, however, we were able to develop a system that should be able to handle the process. First, each daily ebook will be much shorter than usual – an average of 10 pages, which is still more than twice as long as a feature-length magazine article. Borrowing techniques from the Extreme Programming method, the ebooks will be written, edited, and reviewed in parallel using SubEthaEdit. And finally, the PDF production and release process will be automated by custom software developed for us by a small programming firm in India for a mere $99 and a green card.
Since our traditional print publishing partner, Peachpit, doesn’t generally venture outside of the technical world, we went looking for a publishing company with chops in the life-improvement space. We’re pleased to announce a new relationship with Rodale Books, publishers of such masterpieces as “The South Beach Diet Cookbook,” “Bicycling Magazine’s Guide to Bike Touring,” and “The Martha Rules” (in which we learned that, when given a choice between black-and-white stripes and an orange jumpsuit in prison, go with the stripes unless you’re on the heavier side). Rodale has now agreed to compile the first six months’ worth of the series into a paperback book titled “Take Control of Everything, Volume 1”. At an estimated 1,000 pages, the illustrated book is expected to hit the shelves in early September, for a retail price of $55. Whether or not future volumes appear will depend on the sales of the initial book.
Online, however, Take Control of Your Daily Life ebooks will sell for the reduced price of $2 each. We are also, for the first time, offering ebook subscriptions, a much-requested feature. A year-long subscription to this series (200 ebooks) costs only $300, a 25 percent savings over the individual price. As usual, free updates will be available to all purchasers so you’ll be able to stay up-to-date with the latest in toothbrush technology, suggestions from readers about better laundry-folding techniques, and how to avoid left-hand turns while doing errands.
While preparing for this past Macworld Expo in San Francisco, a number of us journalists found our requests for media passes denied by IDG World Expo, whose representative claimed that the new policy was to allow only a single representative from each media outlet access to the keynote. This pronouncement was met with much irate spluttering, since many publications, including TidBITS, send multiple representatives to Macworld Expo to cover both the keynote and the rest of the show. IDG World Expo claimed the policy was necessary because of restricted space in the keynote hall. Luckily, it ended up not affecting us, since Tonya, Jeff Carlson, and I were also giving presentations at the show, and speakers were allowed into the keynote with no restrictions; also, IDG World Expo was happy to give us press passes for the rest of the show.
When the appointed time arrived on that Tuesday morning, we queued up with the rest of the speakers and were led by an Apple person into a specific portion of the spacious hall leading toward the ballroom where the keynote would take place. As usual, the VIPs are led into the hall first, while conference attendees who were allowed into the keynote were collected off to one side – but we saw no sign of our friends in the media. The previous year, we had been corralled in the depths of Moscone Center with the rest of the press, with some folks being led up to the main hall, and others being forced to stay behind to watch the keynote on screens in what was termed the “overflow room.” So we didn’t think much of the lack of the press at the time, figuring that they were simply behind us somewhere.
But then I caught sight of a friend at Apple who I’d met at MacHack years before and waved to him. He saw me and waved back across the crowd, a huge look of relief on his face. Just then, our speaker group was led into the hall, where Steve Jobs introduced iLife ’06, the Intel-based iMac, and the MacBook Pro. Afterwards, I ran into my friend again on the way out. He asked how we’d gotten into the keynote, and with some irritation, I related the whole story of having to use our speaker badges instead of our press passes. “But it wasn’t a big deal,” I ended, “even though we had to sit pretty far back, and ended up essentially watching the entire keynote on the big screen, since the stage was so far away. In fact, it was probably better,” I joked, “since we didn’t take the full brunt of Jobs’s Reality Distortion Field. It was probably just like watching from the press overflow room.”
He glanced around to make sure no one was listening and muttered, “I’m glad you weren’t in there; I hear they’ve moved into phase three of the AJRP.”
“The what?” I asked.
“I can’t talk about it here,” he said, “but I’ll forward you something via email later on. Give me the fingerprint for your public PGP key.” We exchanged PGP fingerprints, and I went off to cover the show, utterly mystified.
Needless to say, I soon forgot about my friend’s odd behavior, and since it’s nearly impossible to keep up with email while at the show, it wasn’t until the plane ride home that I happened upon his message. I decrypted it, and read the following short email discussion, dated from a bit more than five years ago – names had been removed.
Subject: AJRP phase 2 We have the go-ahead from SJ on AJRP phase 2. Phase 1 subjects are showing no signs of rejecting the RDF implants. The next step is to choose who will participate in phase 2. Recommend starting with DRW, TYN, TSC, EMT, JSW, GB.
Subject: Re: AJRP phase 2
Recommend starting with DRW, TYN, TSC, EMT, JSW, GB.
Let’s swing for the fences with EMT, JSW, TYN.
Subject: Re: AJRP phase 2
> Recommend starting with DRW, TYN, TSC, EMT, JSW, GB.
Let’s swing for the fences with EMT, JSW, TYN.
Agreed. Please coordinate with PR on their briefing times.
At first I could make relatively little of the terse messages, but after some puzzling over the acronyms, I realized that at least some of them were abbreviations for publications, with the letters reversed. JSW was WSJ – the Wall Street Journal. TYN was NYT – the New York Times. And as for EMT, TME didn’t make a lot of sense until I guessed at the missing vowel: Time Magazine. And what the heck could an RDF implant be?
With some concentrated Web searching and use of the Internet Archive, I was able to assemble a relatively complete collection of stories filed about Apple by those three publications since 1999; I wanted to see if there had been any change after 2001 when this AJRP had supposedly taken place. Indeed, although there were stories about Apple from a number of writers in each publication over that time period, those from Walter Mossberg at the Journal, David Pogue at the Times, and Josh Quittner at Time were, frankly, pretty positive. Take a look at some of these quotes:
First, Josh Quittner from his famous article about the iMac G4, which Time Canada accidentally posted before the iMac was unveiled at Macworld Expo in 2002: “With its overhaul of the popular iMac, Apple has again created a masterpiece of design.” The rest was described as “feverishly positive” in a New York Times article about the embargo flub.
Clearly David Pogue likes the latest iPod, calling it “the smallest, simplest and best-looking pocket video player.”
But the Wall Street Journal’s Walter Mossberg takes the cake, saying, “I believe that, at the moment, Apple makes the best computers, and the best operating system, for mainstream consumers doing typical tasks – email, web surfing, office-productivity functions such as word processing and presentations, photo organizing and editing, playing and collecting music, and editing home video.”
I was starting to get a sense of what an RDF implant might be – a device that somehow increased the already astonishing power of Steve Jobs’s famed Reality Distortion Field. For those who haven’t experienced the RDF, it’s something else. Tonya and I had our first experience with it close up during our senior year at Cornell University in 1988-89, when Jobs came to cut the ribbon on the first public room of NeXT cubes at Cornell. We were student supervisors, and the computer room in Upson Hall was one of those that our people operated, so we were in the front row when Jobs came and gave a short speech before cutting the ribbon to open the room. To this day, Tonya only mutters about how amazing his shoes were. But I remember how thoroughly I was taken in by the RDF, how utterly world-changing I thought the NeXT cubes were going to be, with their optical drives and 400 dpi laser printers. Of course, after he left, the RDF’s effect slowly faded, and within a week, we were cursing the drives (which sucked in dust and failed regularly), rebooting version 0.8 of the operating system constantly, and torturing Display PostScript as our feeble attempt to get back the machines for significantly increasing our workload.
But what could AJRP stand for? PRJA – assuming it was backwards like the other acronyms – didn’t make any more sense. I noticed my friend was online in iChat shortly after, and when I opened a chat with him, iChat showed that since we were both .Mac members, the chat was encrypted. “What’s AJRP expand to?” I asked. His reply was terse, “Apple Journalist Reeducation Program.”
Suddenly it all came clear. Phase 1 must have been the initial testing of the RDF implant – perhaps a few people who came to the Genius Bar at a particular Apple Store for advice on which Mac to buy were taken in the back room for a “personal consultation” and given the RDF implant before being sent out to evangelize Apple. Phase 2 was more ambitious – those private briefings that top-level journalists are given with company brass could have been Apple’s chance to get to Mossberg, Pogue, and Quittner and ensure positive press from their influential publications. And phase 3 – well, Apple hasn’t been taking much flak of late, so there’s no telling how many journalists are now included in the AJRP but the media room at Macworld Expo was crowded. Apple undoubtedly didn’t want to tip its hand; hence the one pass per media outlet policy, ensuring that there could still be dissenting opinions. At least for a while…
All we can recommend is that you pay close attention to what you read about Apple these days, and consider whether the author might have been co-opted by the AJRP. At big conferences like Macworld Expo, the TidBITS team will be sticking together for mutual protection, and we’ve created an automated system that will post a pre-arranged message to ExtraBITS in the event that Apple does manage to get to us. So keep an eye on our home page, and if you see a headline announcing “Record iPod and iTunes Music Store Sales!” you’ll know we’ve succumbed. Wish us luck, and watch our backs.