TV-PGSeptember 1, 2000: Funny, there's no Cube commercial-- is Apple just shopping for the right song? Meanwhile, has been reincarnated as, but the deal's gotten a lot less interesting, and Intel's new chip is so huge it may need a whole new case and power supply...
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In Search Of A Theme Song (9/1/00)

So there we were, your friendly neighborhood AtAT staff, logging some serious couch time last night. Our respective butt grooves had faded from the furniture during our week-long pilgrimage through the Midwest, and now that we're back, we're trying to remind the living room set who's boss by asserting our shared role as the reigning couch potatoes of the house. As you might imagine, in the process we've been soaking up a lot of TV, which, as everyone knows, is the One True Path to enlightenment and spiritual happiness. And so, it was toward the end of last night's dose of rerun-centric entertainment that divine inspiration struck, and we were left with a haunting question: where are the G4 Cube commercials?

Basically, we just happened to notice that we'd been seeing Apple ads all freakin' night. The Pro Mouse commercial blazed its Steppenwolf-blaring self across the screen probably three or four times. We also noticed at least one showing of Kermie's Sage ad and one showing of the Snow ad. And that got us thinking (always a dangerous thing): it's taken us a really long time to notice the lack of Cube commercials. Chalk it up to being busy, or just really, really unobservant-- but it never even struck us that while every new iMac color had a brand spankin' new TV spot shown at the Expo keynote in July, the Cube was commercial-free.

That's a little strange, don't you think? After all, let's face it-- the Cube's biggest selling point isn't its silent operation, or its G4 power: this thing is being sold on its looks. So a TV commercial would seem to be a natural, especially since the Cube just oozes star power. So, in our TV-triggered philosophical state, we tried to unravel the mystery of just why Apple had forgone the obvious route of pushing the Cube via the airwaves, in all its hexahedral glory. Was it perhaps that the Cube generates so much buzz on its own (for instance, this New York Times article gushing about its "classic beauty") that a TV ad would be superfluous? Is it just that Apple is still constrained on production, and thus wants to wait for more product to become available before hawking the Cube on the tube? And then the muse smiled upon us, and The Truth hit us like a bolt from the blue: there's no Cube commercial because Apple couldn't pick a song.

Think about it. In its new commercials, Apple's licensed all these cute song choices that relate to the product in some way and hopefully influence the landed gentry to drop a couple of thou at the local Apple dealership-- Cream's "White Room" for the Snow iMac, Elvis's "Blue Suede Shoes" for Indigo, etc. But what could Apple use to represent the Cube? The only song that leaps immediately (and regrettably) to mind is "Hip To Be Square" by Huey Lewis And The News-- a song that might well spark riots in the streets if Apple were to put it in heavy rotation. Unfortunately, songs about cubes are few and far between-- and we doubt Apple would try to market its executive-targeted block of clean-line elegance by blasting an Ice Cube track just to stay on topic. For a more oblique approach, "Also Sprach Zarathustra" might have worked from a monolith perspective, had Apple not already used it in the ad for the blue and white G3.

So what, then? Suddenly, in one of those bizarre moments of psychic synergy, both of us separately had the same suggestion: "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby. After all, the Cube is "poetry in motion"-- well, as long as you give it a little scoot. And it's not like Dolby doesn't have at least some tenuous ties to Apple already; a quick search turned up an interview with the musician that Apple conducted back in 1997. Even if Apple wants to stay literal with a cube reference in the song it chooses, while we're not all that familiar with his music, Dolby's apparently got another tune that may be less recognizable, but even more appropriate: "May The Cube Be With You." (Our vote's for "Science," though.) So how 'bout it, Apple? The Cube's too pretty to keep off the air.

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The Big FreeMac Letdown (9/1/00)

Hands up, who remembers the fracas? FreeMac originally announced that it would "give away" a million iMacs to "qualified individuals" who signed up for three years of EarthLink dial-up service. There were strings attached, of course, but overall, an iMac for $718.20 sounded like a steal at the time. These days, with $799 string-free iMacs just around the corner, it seems like a dated concept, but the point is moot anyway; this past February FreeMac's Jonathan Strum shut the concept down, claiming that Apple wouldn't let him give away those iMacs he promised. Steve Jobs publicly denied the allegations, calling Strum's claims "bogus," although Strum apparently had evidence to back up his story. In any case, amid lots of bitterness and ugly accusations of "bait and switch," turned into a scheme with same business plan, but instead of dishing up free iMacs, it's giving away "Internet appliances."

Now that you're up to speed, faithful viewer Galen Rutledge notes that is up and running-- and that the "Internet appliance" that replaced the iMac is, as he puts it, "butt-ugly." We tend to concur; take a gander at the Associated Press photo to judge for yourself. Go2Mac thinks it resembles a Color Classic, which may not be too far off the mark-- it's as if NadaPC (or, more accurately, Samsung, who apparently makes these things) wanted an Internet-friendly all-in-one design, but knew that copying the iMac was sure to incur the wrath of Apple's lawyers, so the older Color Classic was copied instead. Although the iMac's influence is clearly present in the name of this beast: the iCEBOX.

As for the NadaPC deal, it hasn't changed a whole lot from the original FreeMac plan. You still have to sign up for three years of ISP service, only instead of signing with EarthLink for $19.95 a month, you have to sign your soul over to NadaPC's own Internet service for $21.95 a month. And instead of "qualifying" for a partner bank's credit card, now you have to open a "no-fee checking account with CompuBank." And, of course, instead of getting a spiffy new iMac, you get this iCEBOX thingy. So let's see... for $799 you could get a base-level Indigo iMac and sign up with a free ISP like AltaVista FreeAccess, or you could commit to spending $790.20 for NadaPC's service, open a checking account, and take your iCEBOX instead. Having trouble deciding whether or not to blow the extra $8.80 on the iMac?

Granted, the iCEBOX does have some nifty features that the $799 iMac lacks. For one thing, it's also a TV. For another, you can play DVD movies on it. However, the screen is only nine inches diagonal (same as the Color Classic... hmmm...), so we have a feeling that watching the widescreen anamorphic version of Apocalypse Now on it might lose a little something. Oh, and did we mention that the iCEBOX isn't a general-purpose computer? Other than letting you watch TV and DVDs, all you can do on it is browse the web (we shudder to think what most modern web sites look like on a nine-inch screen) and send and receive email; forget about running Quicken or playing any games. Does that make the decision any easier? Frankly, we're wondering just what kind of person would commit to spend $790.20 on this "deal." Evidently NadaPC's going after the vast, untapped "mouth-breathing, slack-jawed troglodyte" market. Sure sounds lucrative to us. Say, we imagine that several of you signed up for more info back when FreeMac was still the promise. You probably received email from NadaPC detailing the new deal. Tell us, did you burst out laughing, or just throw up?

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That's One Mother Heat Sink (9/1/00)

Holy yikes; we all knew that chips from Intel are following a "bigger, faster, hotter" trend, but things are really starting to get out of control-- especially in the "bigger" and "hotter" categories. The first time we saw a Pentium II in its carrier cartridge doohickey, we mistook it for a paperback book. Based on that experience, we never got around to checking out a Pentium III assembly, concerned that it might fall on our toes and break them, or that the heatsink would fall off and we'd be flash-roasted on the spot-- AtAT staff, Crispy Skin. But when we checked out the Slashdot posting sent to us by faithful viewer Jason Bunston, well, we were sort of at a loss.

It seems that the upcoming Pentium 4 is so huge that it doesn't actually fit in existing PC cases. Its "standard heatsink" will reportedly weigh "about one pound," which is so heavy that it needs "four supports below the CPU," thus requiring a "new motherboard tray." As if that weren't crazy enough, the Pentium 4 also needs a new power supply, because it uses a new four-connector plug-- presumably because it sucks down power like a man dying of thirst sucks down soda on Free Refill Night at Chili's. Hence, new computer cases for the Pentium 4.

Judging by this report, we can only assume that Intel's well on its way to crafting the world's first microprocessor with its own measurable gravitational pull. Best of luck to them. Meanwhile, the PowerPC isn't just behind on clock speed, but on sheer mass as well. Hopefully when (if?) Motorola ships processors above the 1 GHz level, we Mac users will also get to experience the joys of cantilevered supports and heatsinks that could pass for a Buick.

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